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Midyear Announcement Expected For Belmont County Cracker Plant

By JENNIFER

COMPSTON-STROUGH

Staff Writer

Despite delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of a project partner, PTT Global Chemical America aims to make a final investment decision regarding its proposed ethane cracker plant by midyear.

A similar announcement had been expected last summer, but the coronavirus made travel for international company officials difficult and posed economic challenges for the entire petrochemical industry that put the announcement on hold. Work on site preparation and strategic partnerships continued, though, allowing the project to keep moving forward.

Dan Williamson, Columbus-based spokesman for PTTGC America, earlier this month said Kongkrapan Intarajang CEO of PTTGCA’s Thai parent company PTTGC, intends to announce the FID around the middle of this year.

“As I understand it, he’s committing to a midyear announcement … ,” Williamson said.

“Nothing has changed in the timeline as the company sees it.”

The company already purchased and cleared a 500-acre site along the Ohio River — previously home to the FirstEnergy R.E. Burger coal-fired power plant — and has invested millions in property acquisition and site preparation. It had partnered with Daelim Chemical in 2018, but Daelim withdrew from the project after the pandemic struck. Since then, PTTGCA has secured agreements with companies that would provide feedstock and ethane storage for the plant, but it continues to seek a new major investment partner.

Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry, who works on behalf of the county on economic development projects including the proposed cracker plant, said plans for the project remain on track.

“I was on a call with team leaders about a week ago,” he said last week. “The project continues to move ahead. They are continuing to work on agreements and talking about the future. …

Merry said PTTGCA continues to secure ethane supply and storage agreements in anticipation of building the facility, which would use six natural gas-fired furnaces to “crack,” or break apart, ethane molecules. The resulting ethylene or polyethylene could be used as components of plastics, textiles and household or industrial chemicals.

Ethane is a natural gas liquid that is abundant in the local natural gas stream. Plans are evolving for construction of an ethane storage facility in northern Monroe County, in salt caverns located about 8 miles from the PTTGCA site at Dilles Bottom.

“I’m looking very forward to some different announcements dealing with these projects in the next few months,” Merry added.

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