PTT Delays Decision on Belmont County Ethane Cracker

February 15, 2017

Steubenville Herald Star. Spending several billions dollars is no small decision, so PTT Global Chemical America will take the rest of this year to evaluate engineering and design plans for the potential Belmont County ethane cracker, officials with the Thailand-based firm said late Tuesday.

The company had planned to make its decision by the end of March. However, Belmont County commissioners said they understand PTT officials must take as much time as they need to make the project work for them.

“It is not bad news. We want to reassure the people of the Ohio Valley. This is a huge and costly decision for PTT to make,” Commissioner Mark Thomas said. PTT “simply needs more time to complete their due diligence.”

“I do not believe that it is a strong indicator on the company’s final investment decision. Multi-billion-dollar investments take time,” Commissioner J.P. Dutton added of the Tuesday news.

In September 2015, PTT officials committed to spending at least $100 million for engineering and design plans. PTT spokesman Dan Williamson said the two contractors working on plans to build the petrochemical plant are Irving, Texas-based Fluor Corp. and San Francisco-based Bechtel Group Inc.

Both companies’ websites feature examples of their work on similar projects involving the petrochemical industry.

“They have more questions for the two contractors. Which of these two plans is the best one? Is the project, itself, feasible? This must be a very informed decision,” Williamson said Tuesday.

“The company is addressing the costs that have been estimated to them,” Thomas added. “They can take as much time as they need to make a responsible business decision.”

Last year, PTT Project Director Paul Wojciechowski said preliminary plans called for having infrastructure onsite that would “crack” the ethane into ethylene. He said additional infrastructure at the Dilles Bottom site then would 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.

Officials estimate building such a massive complex would generate thousands of construction jobs, as well as hundreds of permanent jobs once the plant enters operation. Hundreds or even thousands of “spin-off” jobs could result from the ethane cracker’s presence, officials have said.

Royal Dutch Shell already is building its ethane cracker north of Pittsburgh at Monaca, but the majority of industry leaders believe there is so much ethane in the Marcellus and Utica shale region that it can both support multiple new cracker plants and provide feedstock to other established plants around the globe.

U.S. ethane production is growing so fast that federal officials can barely keep track of it, as last year’s projection of 1.4 million barrels per day by 2017 is now trumped by new prognostications of 1.7 million daily barrels by 2018.

“The resources are there. That is why they have selected this location,” Williamson said.

“We are in a unique position in the Marcellus and Utica region, particularly as it pertains to future ethane production,” Dutton added.

PTTGC America President and CEO Toasaporn Boonyapipat said the company has made “good progress” on the project, including receiving water discharge permits from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“A number of commercial arrangements have been prepared with various parties, including feedstock and utility suppliers, product marketers and logistics providers,” he said.

“Upon receipt of (the contractors’) initial plans, we recognized a need for further discussions with each of them so that we will be in a stronger position to make our decision on the engineering design and the economic feasibility of this project,” Boonyapipat said of the plans from Fluor and Bechtel.

“PTTGC America realizes the significance of the development of the project, as it would create thousands of construction jobs, hundreds of full-time jobs and substantial investments that will provide lasting socioeconomic benefits to nearby communities, the state of Ohio and the entire region,” he added. “For some in the Belmont County community, especially the project area residents, we recognize this delay may cause further uncertainty and inconvenience, but we hope that the strong support we have received to date will continue.”

By Casey Junkins 

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