Proposed W.Va. cracker plant emissions discussed

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A proposed ethane cracker plant in Wood County likely would have to comply with a state regulation aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial facilities.


Adopted in 2011, the regulation requires the Department of Environmental Protection to determine, when reviewing air pollution permits, whether such facilities would use the best available technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The threshold to qualify as a “major source” of greenhouse emissions is 100,000 tons per year.


Air quality officials with the DEPT met with representatives of Brazilian petrochemical giant Odebrecht last week to begin discussing the project, the Charleston Gazette reported Sunday.


“It’s going to be a difficult permitting process,” John Benedict, the DEP’s air quality director, told the newspaper.


Joe Kessler, a DEP air quality engineer, said it is difficult for agency officials to say what they might require of a cracker plant, without an air pollution permit application in hand.


“We want to know a little bit about what we’re really looking at,” Kessler told the newspaper.


Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced in November that Odebrecht is exploring the possibility of building a cracker plant and three polyethylene plants in Wood County.


The plants would be located at a complex in Wood County known as Ascent, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. Odebrecht has not said how large the proposed cracker plant would be or what potential pollution it might create.


“Protecting the quality of our land, our air and our water is a priority for us as community partners,” Odebrecht spokesman Chuck Glazer said in statement issued to the newspaper. “Our approach will be to use best practices and to work closely with the appropriate local, state, interstate and federal authorities to be sure that our facility is constructed and operated to satisfy all applicable regulatory and permitting requirements.”


The Washington-based Environmental Integrity Project said last week that companies nationwide have proposed or obtained 95 Clean Air Act permits for new compressors, pipelines and other major facilities since January 2012 as a result of a boom in natural gas production.


“It’s important that we understand the full climate change picture when it comes to America’s shale gas boom and the related tradeoffs,” EIP director Eric Schaeffer said.


“As natural gas replaces coal as the fuel of choice for electric power plants, greenhouse gas emissions from that sector will decline, since gas releases less than half as much carbon as coal per kilowatt of electricity generated,” Schaefer said. “But the data suggest that declining CO2 emissions from the electric power sector will be partially offset by higher emissions from other industries cashing in on cheap and abundant supplies of oil and gas from shale deposits.”


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