Thousands of jobs would be created in West Virginia if a thermal cracker facility was built to process ethane gas from Marcellus Shale drilling, state officials said Wednesday.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Marcellus to Manufacturing Task Force, Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said more than 2,300 direct jobs would be created if a cracker facility -- estimated to cost $1.5 billion -- were built in the Mountain State. He added that 498 indirect jobs would also be created by such a facility and an additional 3,500 jobs in the state would benefit.

"The impact [of the facility] would be substantial in and of itself, but it might pale in comparison to the impact that the byproducts of a cracker might have on the reinvigoration and expansion of the chemicals and plastics industry in West Virginia," state Department of Commerce spokeswoman Courtney Sisk told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "We believe West Virginia is poised to compete for the construction of at least one cracker facility, and possibly more, that would serve the Marcellus region."

Last December Bayer AG said it owned three sites in the Marcellus region of West Virginia that would be ideal locations for thermal cracker facilities (see Shale Daily, Dec. 23, 2010), while Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. said it would build a 200 MMcf/d capacity cryogenic natural gas facility in the northwestern part of the state to process natural gas liquids (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20, 2010).

Meanwhile, Dow Chemical Co. announced last month that it was partnering with Range Resources Corp. to deliver ethane from Marcellus Shale drilling in neighboring Pennsylvania to Dow's existing facilities in Louisiana (see Shale Daily, April 25).

"It's abundantly and undeniably clear that the responsible development of clean-burning American natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is a powerful job creation engine," Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "Countless support industries along the supply chain, as well as manufacturers, are seeing this positive growth firsthand."