W.Va. plant closing on proposed cracker plant land

WASHINGTON, W.Va. (AP) – A plastics manufacturer that employs 130 workers in Wood County is closing the plant on land where a Brazilian petrochemical giant is exploring the possibility of building several facilities.

Media outlets report SABIC Innovative Plastics informed employees at its Washington facility on Thursday.

That news came shortly before Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Odebrecht had made a purchase option on the same site to possibly locate an ethane cracker plant and three polyethlene plants.

Plant manager Scott Dansey said SABIC is consolidating U.S. operations involving a type of thermoplastic resin. Some production will be transferred to plants in Ottawa, Ill., and Bay St. Louis, Miss., in 2015.

Dansey said employees will continue to work at the Washington site over the next 18 months to assist with the transition.

SABIC spokeswoman Shelia Naab said Friday that 109 workers are under layoff notice, but 64 of those would be eligible to retire. About a half-dozen technology employees will transfer. The plant’s remaining employees are in corporate roles and are unaffected by the layoffs, she said.

The ethane cracker and polyethlene plants would be built at a complex known as Ascent, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. Odebrecht will lead the project’s investment and financing, along with the operation of water and electric utilities. Plastics maker Braskem S.A. of Brazil will handle petrochemical-related activities.

The potential project’s estimated cost and timetable weren’t disclosed. The project would have to secure financing, meet various regulatory and governmental approval and obtain contracts for long-term ethane supply.

“Our decision to close the Washington site was a difficult one to make, but we are hopeful that the sale of the property will ultimately prove to be beneficial to the local economy,” Dansey said. “We are also pleased to know that the third-party entity will consider hiring qualified, local workers if it builds its operations in Washington.”

SABIC bought the former GE Plastics plant in May 2007. The company previously eliminated 48 positions at the plant in 2009 and laid off up to 80 workers in 2010.