Gov. Kasich Urges Patience on Belmont County Ethane Cracker

File Photo Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical has yet to decide whether it will build a $6 billion ethane cracker on this site near Dilles Bottom in Belmont County.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly three years after Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical announced intentions to build a $6 billion ethane cracker at Dilles Bottom — and after almost seven years of speculation regarding such a plant for eastern Ohio — Gov. John Kasich encourages the public to remain patient as the company makes its final investment decision.

“You just have to wait. These are complicated,” Kasich added regarding the project while speaking Wednesday during the 2018 Ohio Associated Press Legislative/Political Preview Session in Columbus.

After Upper Ohio Valley leaders announced the project in May 2015, Kasich met with PTT officials at the Statehouse in September of that year to discuss the company’s plans.

Those plans included spending at least $100 million for engineering and design work on the potential plant.

About 29 months later, Kasich on Wednesday said state leaders continue working to put the massive petrochemical complex along the Ohio River.

“I’ve been on the phone with these folks. What I tell them is, decide. Not being in the U.S. is crazy,” Kasich said of both PTT and JobsOhio. The JobsOhio firm is a private development corporation which Kasich signed into law in 2011 for the purpose of replacing the state-run Department of Development.

Ethane is one of the liquid forms of natural gas prevalent in Marcellus and Utica shale wells. Any ethane cracker will take the ethane to “crack” the liquid into ethylene. In 2016, PTT officials said plans at the time called for having additional infrastructure at the Dilles Bottom site which would then transform some of this material into ethylene glycol for antifreeze, while even more onsite machinery would turn the rest of the ethylene into polyethylene for making plastic goods.

“We would love to have the cracker because what the cracker will do is create a plastics industry for Ohio,” Kasich said. “It will benefit the whole region if we can get this done.”

Officials believe the cracker would lead to thousands of temporary construction jobs, along with hundreds of permanent jobs. Also regarding jobs in general, Kasich on Wednesday said the state and federal education systems must do a better job preparing young people to work in the 21st century.

“With the digital transformation, jobs are going to disappear,” Kasich said. “When the wave of the digital revolution comes, if we are not ready, we are going to be in an economic tsunami.”

“Training kids in some abstract way, or training them to work on the farm: I mean, that’s over with,” he added.

Kasich cannot seek re-election this year because of term limits. In 2016, he was the last Republican to drop out of the presidential race, which allowed now-President Donald Trump to claim the nomination on his road to winning the Electoral College.

Kasich said Wednesday he does not know what his political future may hold. However, he continues to counter Trump in many areas, particularly in the president’s regular criticism of the media.

“Thank God we have the press,” Kasich said.

For the remainder of his term, Kasich said he will continue his efforts to improve the state’s business climate, as well as its aging roads and infrastructure.

“Companies don’t want to go some place where things are goofy,” Kasich said.

The Wednesday proceedings also included presentations by Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, both of whom are Republicans, along with Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko and House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, both of whom are Democrats.

While the legislators disagreed on some issues, they seemed to agree that fossil fuels and nuclear power should continue to see competition from renewable sources of energy.

“It doesn’t matter if global warming exists or not — renewable energy is the next big thing,” Strahorn said.