Odebrecht Organization has applied for two state permits associated with the multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker it proposed building last year in Wood County, WV, near the heart of growing Marcellus Shale production.

A company spokesman, though, said the permits are merely part of a broader process to evaluate the feasibility of last year’s proposal. Odebrecht subsidiary Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC applied for an air quality permit and another evaluation permit for the site of the facility under the state’s Voluntary Remediation Program, which encourages the cleanup of contaminated sites and redevelopment of under-utilized properties.

The company has been scooping up land near Washington, WV, just outside Parkersburg, which is roughly 75 miles north of the state capital, Charleston. Odebrecht has been relatively quiet about its plans ever since Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced in November that the company had selected West Virginia for the $3.8 billion facility, which would process Marcellus ethane into ethylene for petrochemicals (see Shale Daily, Nov. 14, 2013).

In addition to the cracker, the facility would include water treatment and energy co-generation infrastructure. It’s also assumed that millions of additional dollars would be spent on pipeline infrastructure, ethane storage equipment and rail and truck terminals.

But as other projects, such as Royal Dutch Shell plc’s 60,000 b/d ethane cracker in western Pennsylvania and Appalachian Resin Inc.’s smaller 15,000 b/d cracker have seemed to stall (see Shale Daily, May 2; Dec. 26, 2013), questions remain about the viability of Odebrecht’s project. The Appalachian Basin faces stiff competition from a robust petrochemical industry on the Gulf Coast (see Shale Daily, March 24).

A 46-page report released in December from a study that was funded by Odebrecht unit Braskem America (see Shale Daily, March 3) said West Virginia is an attractive option for downstream facilities due to an abundance of raw materials, competitive electric rates and a skilled workforce, but it added that significant challenges, such as transportation infrastructure and railroad freight rates, remain.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is currently reviewing the company’s applications.