A trio of Bayer AG-owned sites in West Virginia totaling about 1,480 acres would be ideal locations for thermal crackers to process ethane from the state’s Marcellus Shale area, the company said.

The acreage, located in industrial parks in New Martinsville, Institute and South Charleston, WV, is available for lease or sale, according to Bayer spokesman Bryan Iams. New Martinsville is located on the Ohio River in Wetzel County near the base of the state’s northern panhandle; Institute and South Charleston are in Kanawha County in central West Virginia.

The sites, which are currently home to Bayer chemical plants, “could be ideal locations for a company to consider a thermal cracker,” Iams told NGI’s Shale Daily.

“We are engaged in some early discussions to explore this possibility with a range of stakeholders,” he said.

Approximately 1,000 acres are available at the New Martinsville site; 460 acres at the Institute site; and another 20 acres at the South Charleston site. All of the sites are located within the Marcellus. The two larger sites, which have direct access to major waterways, railways and highways, would be particularly suited to house thermal crackers, according to the company.

The pharmaceutical company, which utilizes natural gas as both a raw material and a fuel source, is investigating the role it could play at various points of the cracking operation, including processing, shipping and sustainable water treatment, Iams said.

The burgeoning output from the Marcellus is opening opportunities for processing plants and projects to take away the resulting natural gas liquids (NGL). Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. recently said it plans to fund construction of a 200 MMcf/d capacity cryogenic processing plant to serve shale gas producers in the West Virginia portion of the Marcellus (see Shale Daily, Dec. 20). The plant, which is to be built in the northwestern part of the state, would treat and process NGLs transported on Magnum Hunter’s Eureka Hunter Pipeline System.

MarkWest Energy Partners, El Paso Corp., Cumberland Plateau Pipeline Co. and Enterprise Products Partners LP have all floated projects to take Marcellus ethane to the Gulf Coast (see Daily GPI, Sept. 20; May 10).

NGL production in the Marcellus could increase to 115,000-120,000 b/d by 2015, enough to support one new pipeline project in the near term and possibly a second in about five years, according to Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Michael Blum (see Shale Daily, Nov. 10). While Wells Fargo has predicted that the ethane market could become oversupplied by 85,000-105,000 b/d on a capacity basis beginning in 2012, the analysts believe recently announced expansion projects could mean an end to the fractionation bottleneck for ethane supply (see Shale Daily, Oct. 27).

According to Bentek Energy LLC, 45 different processing plant expansions, with total capacity of 6.9 Bcf/d, are being contemplated in various parts of the United States, with most concentrated in the Marcellus, Bakken and Eagle Ford shale plays (see Shale Daily, Dec. 8).