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Aither, RMG Partner to Fund Marcellus Cracker

Renewable Manufacturing Gateway (RMG) and Aither Chemicals LLC have agreed to collaborate on a $750 million ethane cracker for Marcellus Shale gas, the two nonprofit organizations said Monday. A specific location within southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia for the facility has not been identified, they said.

Pittsburgh-based RMG and South Charleston, WV-based Aither said the facility, which would use Aither's ethane catalytic cracker technology, would create 200 permanent direct production jobs in the tri-state region and generate $463 million in annual sales by 2016.

"Together, RMG and Aither will finance and build one of the largest manufacturing plants that has been built in the region for the past few decades," said Aither CEO Leonard Dolhert. "This will create many jobs and help the regional economy significantly."

Aither said its catalytic cracking technology has lower capital costs, lower operating costs and better scalability than steam cracking. Last August the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust said it would invest $250,000 in Aither.

West Virginia is in competition with neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania for an ethane cracker. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told legislators in his state of the state address last week that he would intensify efforts to attract an ethane cracker to the state (see Shale Daily, Jan. 17). A single ethane cracker would be a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year investment, Tomblin said.

Several companies are eyeing the Marcellus Shale region to locate an ethane cracker. Royal Dutch Shell plc is reportedly considering sites in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania for a cracker that could consume 60,000-80,000 b/d of ethane (see Shale Daily, Dec. 5, 2011; Sept. 7, 2011). Meanwhile, hundreds of West Virginians are petitioning companies to build a cracker in the Kanawha Valley (see Shale Daily, Dec. 15, 2011), while state officials have lobbied hard for the Mountain State (see Shale Daily, Aug. 26, 2011; July 18, 2011; May 6, 2011; Dec. 23, 2010).

RMG's mission is regional job creation in the clean technology and renewable energy industries. Aither is a spinout of Mid-Atlantic Technology Research and Innovation Center Inc. (MATRIC), a nonprofit research institute focused on chemical, energy and environmental innovations. MATRIC, in cooperation with the Charleston Area Alliance, the Chemical Alliance Zone and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, last year commissioned a study to identify ethane storage, transportation and transmission resources in the Charleston, WV, area (see Shale Daily, June 17, 2011).

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