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Ethane cracker plant would add pollution to Ohio Valley


The Intelligencer Staff


SHADY SIDE, OHIO — Air quality permits for proposed ethane cracker projects in Pennsylvania and West Virginia show they will bring carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, xylene and benzene, along with various other pollutants.

Environmental officials in both those states do not believe the estimated emissions from either proposed plant would violate the federal Clean Air Act. Still, if a pair of Asian firms proceed to build a $5 billion ethane cracker near Shadyside on the FirstEnergy Corp. R.E. Burger plant site and some surrounding property, air pollution is a strong possibility.

“To those who may be opposed to this type of plant, I can assure them it will be regulated like any other plant,” Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said. “The permitting process will be very extensive.”

PTT Global and its Japanese partner, Marubeni Corp., last week joined Ohio and Belmont County officials to confirm intentions to build a $5 billion dollar ethane cracker. Officials believe the project could create thousands of temporary jobs during the construction phase and hundreds of full-time permanent jobs once it is online.

This is the third announced ethane cracker for the Marcellus and Utica shale regions, as Royal Dutch Shell continues evaluating plans for one in Monaca, Pa., while Odebrecht considers building one near Parkersburg.

Officials believe the projects make sense because the natural gas streams are rich with ethane, which usually means the liquid must be removed from the gas for the dry methane to go to market.

According to the application Shell filed with the Pennsylvania DEP, its cracker has the potential to emit the following pollutants on a yearly basis:

348 tons of nitrogen oxides
1,012 tons of carbon monoxide
21 tons of sulfur oxides
522 tons of volatile organic compounds
152 tons of ammonia
2.24 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents

The application Odebrecht filed for the West Virginia project shows the facility would also emit pollutants such as xylene, benzene and hexane, though in relatively small quantities.

Most of the Burger plant shut down in 2010 to comply with federal environmental requirements.

The Asian companies are expected to make a final investment decision for the Belmont County ethane cracker by 2016, though they may spend about $150 million over the next few years to determine the viability of the project.

County officials said last week this $150 million would be private money.

“Ethane Cracker Plant Would Add Pollution to Ohio Valley” The Intelligencer 28 Apr 2015: A1

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