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Shale project grows

By Matt Murphy, Local government writer

Antero Resources announced Wednesday it will be an anchor supplier for a proposed cracker plant and related operations near Parkersburg in Wood County.

The gas company, which has a presence in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio for the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, made the announcement in a press release on its website.

The cracker project — known as “Project ASCENT,” for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise — was announced last fall by officials from the state and from Odebrecht, a Brazilian company.

The cracker is still a proposed project and no timeline for construction has been set.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company will provide the ASCENT project with 30,000 barrels per day of ethane, which Antero said is nearly half the volume required to operate the ASCENT plant.

The agreement depends on when and if the ASCENT project actually comes to fruition.

“Today’s announcement highlights one of the important benefits of shale gas production and demonstrates Antero’s commitment to the growth of downstream manufacturing in the Appalachian Region,” Antero CEO Paul Rady said in the press release.

“We are excited to work with our partners at Odebrecht and Braskem to help position Ascent as a catalyst for regional economic development.”

State officials are aware of the agreement, and a statement from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was included in Antero’s press release.

“This announcement is exciting news for West Virginia and others in the industry must take note and follow Antero’s lead. While we recognize there is still work ahead to bring Project ASCENT to fruition – today’s announcement is a major step forward,” Tomblin said in the release.

“By utilizing the ethane produced in West Virginia here at home, we can revitalize our manufacturing industry for decades to come – bringing thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in investments to the Mountain State.”

Antero said the ethane it will supply will be used by Project ASCENT for the manufacture of polyethylene, a resin used in plastics manufacturing.

Around the same time Antero issued the press release, Odebrecht’s vice president of business development, David Peebles, was speaking at the kick-off for Marcellus to Manufacturing conference, held in conjunction with the West Virginia Construction and Design Expo in Charleston.

Peebles’ speech did not include any details about Project ASCENT, and at one point he said, “I’m not going to talk in any detail about our project.”

Instead, Peebles spoke generally about entities and governments in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky working together as a region to capitalize on some benefits from Marcellus and Utica shales.

“This is not about a single plant, this is not about a single company,” Peebles said. “This is about a regional effort.”

Peebles said he believes the region needs more facilities that can process natural gas and related materials that are extracted from Marcellus and Utica shale wells. He said as pipelines are being built, leaders in the region need to think about ways to process gas and other materials in the region instead of piping it elsewhere.

“They’re building the on-ramps, but where are the off-ramps?” Peebles said, using highways as an analogy for pipelines. “We need off-ramps.”


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