West Virginia’s chemical industry has seen many phases since its early beginnings as the nation’s leading salt producer in the 1800s. The industry has been transformed by technology and smart manufacturing, a global market and sudden spikes in demand, along with increased diversity in leadership.
Manufacturers have long been drawn to the Mountain State thanks to the 400-million-year-old salt brine deposits that originated well before the formation of the Appalachian Mountains when modern-day West Virginia was covered by the waters of the now-extinct Iapetus Ocean. The salt brines serve many purposes—chlorine is used in water treatments, and the brines contribute to the manufacturing of automobile gasoline and bleach. The abundant water supply, gas reserves and salt brine deposits of the Mountain State have allowed the industry to thrive for generations and established West Virginia as a global chemical and polymer hub.