Conference Explores Shale Potential

By George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor

The first-ever West Virginia Marcellus to Manufacturing Ethane Development Conference, scheduled next Wednesday and Thursday at the Civic Center, is aimed at attracting companies that can use the resources made available by the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale.

Fred Clark, corporate secretary and chief executive officer of IVS Hydro Inc., said he came up with the idea for the conference last summer when the West Virginia Manufacturers Association formed the Marcellus to Manufacturing Committee.

Clark said that although his company has grown since 1973 from one employee to 260 and is headquartered in Institute, "at least 70 percent of our work is outside of the state. Manufacturing in West Virginia has declined from 85,000 jobs 10 years ago to 50,000 jobs - those are the numbers I keep hearing.

"I want to see manufacturing grow in our state. Horizontal drilling in the Marcellus Shale will produce methane, which can be used to make ethane, polypropylene and other things that are in turn used to make many of the products we use every day.

"From what I'm reading, this is a Gulf of Mexico-size opportunity right here within 100 miles of where we are. It's going to be monumental for our state and region.

"If just one company in Pennsylvania or New Jersey or Massachusetts that's in the plastics business hears about the opportunities for the rebirth of chemical manufacturing in West Virginia and decides to come here, that's a start. And maybe if people read about what's going on they'll come next year.

"Steve Hedrick of Bayer is chairman of our committee," Clark said. "He's committed to exploring the opportunities there will be for West Virginia businesses and more important, West Virginia manufacturing businesses. I'm excited to be involved."

Clark's company uses high-pressure water blasting tools to clean industrial equipment and has a fleet of more than 70 vacuum trucks that collect the used water and take it to wastewater treatment plants. The company also has a construction division that uses high-pressure water equipment to cut concrete.

Because of the construction division, IVS Hydro is active in the Contractors Association of West Virginia. The association sponsors the annual West Virginia Construction and Design Exposition, which also runs next Wednesday and Thursday at the Civic Center (see separate story).

"I've been going to the expo for years and I've read a lot about the methane discoveries and realize this is a regional opportunity," Clark said. The expo attracts lots of people "who build things and who take a very practical view of the world. I thought, 'If the mission of the Marcellus to Manufacturing Committee is to attract what they call 'downstream manufacturing opportunities,' why don't we have our first M2M conference at the expo and tell about or state, our opportunities?

"The expo is the perfect venue for our first conference," Clark said. "We were a little late getting started. We're getting close to 100 people registered.

"Karen Price and Patty Barnhart of the manufacturers' association have done a wonderful job getting speakers," Clark said.

Oliver Luck, West Virginia University's athletic director, is a keynote speaker. The title of his speech: "Marcellus, Methane and the Mountaineers - A Winning Combination."

Luck "is a visionary in his own right," Clark said. "He's lived in Houston, in Europe - but he came back to West Virginia because there's an opportunity at WVU to build and grow something.

"Being from Houston, he's obviously seen what an energy abundant area can do for manufacturing, the economy and education," Clark said. "I thought he would be a great person to offer a different perspective on what the opportunities are for our children, our state and our future."

Asked if Luck is being paid for his appearance, Clark said, "Oh goodness no. He agreed to come do this."

Other speakers include Jay Timmons, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers; Roger Bernstein, vice president of state affairs at the American Chemistry Council; Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection; and John Stekla, director of ethylene studies at IHS Chemical, Houston.

Additional information about the conference is posted online at www.wvma.com/M2M/.