ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio — Instead of seeing local ethane flow to Gulf Coast petrochemical plants, Belmont County officials hope a pair of Asian firms will use the liquid to employ thousands of construction workers and hundreds of permanent employees via a $5 billion cracker complex.
On Wednesday, Belmont County commissioners and Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical and Tokyo’s Marubeni Corp. will decide before the end of 2016 whether they will turn the former FirstEnergy R.E. Burger site and some surrounding property into an ethane cracker.
“I think you will see this plant come to fruition simply based upon the fact of where we are located,” Commissioner Mark Thomas said when asked why an ethane producer would send their natural gas liquid to this proposed facility as opposed to sending it southward for cracking in conduits.
“The location makes sense because of where we are,” Thomas continued, adding companies would not have to pay to ship the ethane as far if they can send it to the proposed site, just south of Shadyside along the Ohio River.
Thomas said it is premature to indicate whether the developers or some governmental body would actually own the proposed plant, which can still be used to produce electricity in times of “peak demand” by FirstEnergy. Thomas also said it is too early to say exactly how much acreage the cracker facility would include. However, he said “the Dilles Bottom area in Mead Township will be dramatically changed.”
Both Commissioner Ginny Favede and Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, used the phrase “game changer” to describe the proposed ethane cracker.
“The Belmont County site was chosen over locations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is an exciting moment for the state, the region, and potential job seekers,” Johnson added.
As West Virginia officials continue hoping for the Odebrecht ethane cracker planned for the Parkersburg area, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s spokesman Chris Stadelman confirmed Wednesday the Mountain State had also been in the running for the PTT Global project.
“The state was notified last week that the company had selected an alternate site, primarily because of issues related to getting raw materials to the preferred site in Mason County. Continued development of the petrochemical sector in the Appalachia Basin will benefit West Virginia and surrounding states,” Stadelman said.
If constructed, the complex would use ethane extracted from the region’s Marcellus and Utica shale formations. The facility would then “crack” the ethane into ethylene, which is used as a basis for plastics and resins contained in items such as food packaging, textiles and pharmaceuticals.
“Working with Jobs Ohio and the state over the past two years has been a positive experience and we look forward to moving this project into the next phase,” said Kongkrapan Intarajang, Executive Vice President of International Business Relations for PTT Global.
Jobs Ohio is the development arm of Kasich’s office.
“Ohio is at the center of America’s new energy industry, and the smart companies want to come here to be part of the great things that are happening. We are one step closer to landing a new, multi-billion dollar investment in eastern Ohio, and that’s exciting news for our state, the region and Belmont County,” Kasich said.
Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry said he was glad to make the announcement Wednesday because officials have been working behind the scenes on the project for a few years.
“If you think the traffic is bad now on (Ohio 7) and (Interstate 470), wait for another couple years when the construction starts happening,” he said.
Commissioners Matt Coffland and Thomas said organizers met with representatives of the Shadyside Local School District to discuss how the cracker would affect the school’s property tax situation. Coffland said no determination was made, adding developers would meet with school officials again at a “later date.”
“Even when this final decision is made – and again, we feel it will be positive – we are talking a minimum of five years from today before this is online. And probably a minimum of five years before this is even taxed for purposes of school districts,” Thomas added.