Brazilian firms Braskem and Odebrecht have confirmed that they are re-evaluating Project Ascent, the major plastics and petrochemicals project they had proposed near Parkersburg, W. Va.
“From the beginning, we have taken a deliberate approach to Project Ascent,” officials with both firms said in a joint statement. “Under the current energy scenarios, the original configuration of Project Ascent needs to be re-evaluated and a final investment decision on the project will require more diligence.”
“We have already begun our reanalysis and will continue to take a prudent, deliberative approach to ensure that Ascent's business will be successful and sustainable for the region, our shareholders, team members, industry partners, and clients,” they added.
São Paulo-based Braskem ranks as South America's largest resin maker. Odebrecht is a massive Brazilian industrial firm. The project was believed to be moving forward until Braskem CEO Fernando Musa said at an industry event in mid-April that the firms were re-evaluating the project. Musa said recent drops in global oil prices have reduced the profit advantage of natural gas feedstock.
As recently as October, a Braskem official was touting the project at the Global Plastics Summit in Chicago. “This will be a cornerstone of the region,” Renato Monteiro, business development vice president, said at the event. “The Gulf Coast will remain the heart of the industry, but there's stranded ethane in the northeast U.S. that can be used.”
Monteiro added at the time that engineering work was underway on the project and that 65 percent of the ethane feedstock needed already had been secured, and that Innovene-brand PE technology had been licensed from Ineos Group.
The proposed site would make high density, low density and linear low density PE, as well as ethylene via an ethylene cracker. It would source ethane based on natural gas from the nearby Marcellus and Utica shale gas deposits.
The delay of the Braskem/Odebrecht project comes almost simultaneously with PTT Global Chemical of Thailand and Marubeni Corp. of Japan announcing that they're one step closer to finalizing a similar project for Belmont County, Ohio, not far from Parkersburg. Officials with PTT and Marubeni on April 22 confirmed that Belmont County is a finalist for the project.
At least four similar projects have been proposed for shale-rich regions of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania in recent years, but none have begun construction. Shell Chemical LP has proposed a massive petrochemicals unit in Monaca, Pa., near Pittsburgh, but seems no closer to breaking ground than when the project was announced in 2012.
Startup firms Appalachian Resins and Aither Chemical also had projects on the drawing board but have taken no action.