West Virginia chemical industry poised for growth, has hope for - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia chemical industry poised for growth, has hope for development

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Chemicals have a long tradition in West Virginia, and those in the industry are hoping anther growing sector – natural gas – can boost the Chemical Valley and other parts of the state.

Even though development in the Marcellus Shale gas play is relatively young and lower natural gas prices have depressed some potential development, chemical producers are already looking to more natural gas for more growth in their own industry. When drillers pierce the earth for methane, the primary component of dry natural gas, other gases such as butane and ethane can come from the ground.

These elements form some of the very basic elements required to produce various manufacturing products, including plastics. Last year, plastics exports from West Virginia were the largest export by value, topping $1 billion of the state's economy. Other chemicals exported in the state valued at over $426 million. 

"As an industry we're very excited about the findings of the Marcellus and Utica shale because it offers a basic feedstock for the plastics and chemical industry," said Karen Facemyer, president of the Polymer Alliance Zone. "We keep hearing snippets about the possibilities of crackers and the downstream industries that will be mostly manufacturing to the state." 

Facemyer said her organization is doing everything it can to promote Marcellus Shale development so as to encourage growth in the plastics industry. Facemyer said she hasn't yet seen a lot of direct growth so far as a result of the development, although a lot of companies have been able to expand due to potential gas development.

"With the business climate in the state turning around and energy costs low compared to other places and the industry about to boom with Marcellus drilling, we see that as very exciting," Facemyer said. 

Some of the things made by the plastics industry in West Virginia might surprise people.

A lot of the products that come out of West Virginia she said, are additives or other components of common products used around the world. 

While much of the chemical development is focused on Charleston, other plants are beginning to develop plastics and chemical technologies closer to the northern part of the state where much of the natural gas activity is playing out. 

Karen Price, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, said the chemical industry has been an integral part of developing the state's manufacturing base. 

Price said it's just a matter of time before Marcellus expansion really turns into success for manufacturers in the state.