West Virginia Department of Commerce An Innovation Factory for a New Generation

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An Innovation Factory for a New Generation

Innovation Factory

Kureha is only one of many new innovative polymer or chemical companies coming online. Another is Aither Chemicals, LLC, a spinout MATRIC venture.

West Virginia Regional Technology Park
The West Virginia Regional Technology Park is the country’s newest innovation factory. It is located at the former Union Carbide Tech Center, which developed more than 3,000 patents. Photos on pages 17-19 courtesy of WVRTP by John Sibold.

Aither is improving upon an alternate method for making ethylene that Carbide invented more than 30 years ago. Aither’s process uses a catalytic cracking method. It is designed to work economically at the same or smaller scale, with less start-up costs and fewer emissions than a traditional steam cracker. Aither already is attracting the attention of Pittsburgh-based Renewable Manufacturing Gateway (RMG) to line up funds to build its first plant in Appalachia’s Marcellus Shale region.

Another MATRIC spinout company has developed a truck that treats “frac water” – the wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract natural gas from Marcellus Shale – and makes it safe to return to the environment. A demonstration unit was unveiled in January. Both of these ventures are home-grown West Virginia companies housed at the 258-acre West Virginia Regional Technology Park – the very same place once known as Carbide’s Tech Center.

In December 2010, the state of West Virginia acquired the Tech Center campus from The Dow Chemical Company, when the site was facing closure. The new “Tech Park” not only saved 550 threatened jobs but also soon added more than 50 others, with prospects for many more as technology companies consider locating or expanding at the site. CAZ plans to build an incubator for start-ups, too.

The Tech Park offers large laboratory space within two buildings, each with more than 130,000 square feet of space. Having four pilot plants, it is unlike any other research facility in the nation. This configuration allows for medium-scale research and testing, an important step in determining the viability of a new process or invention before a company invests in a large-scale production facility.

It’s déjà vu all over again. The Tech Park is becoming an innovation factory, again – bringing more education, research, jobs and revenue to West Virginia. Welcome to the home of a new generation of world-class chemical innovation: South Charleston.



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