$100M invested to prepare Belmont County site for ethane cracker

DILLES BOTTOM, Ohio– Nearly $100 million is being invested in the site preparation for a proposed ethane cracker plant in Belmont County.

JobsOhio, a private nonprofit economic development organization, awarded a $30 million revitalization grant to PTT Global Chemical America of Thailand and Daelim Industrial Co. of South Korea, which have partnered in the possible construction of a petrochemical plant along the Ohio River in Mead Township at Dilles Bottom, south of Shadyside. The companies have committed $65 million for the site work through JobsOhio for a total investment of $95 million.

The proposed complex, which former Gov. John Kasich said could cost up to $10 billion to construct, is projected to process 1.5 million tons of ethane each year from the local natural gas stream. Cracker plants use ethane to create ethylene, a component of plastics and chemicals such as antifreeze, solvents and cleaners, as well as many consumer products including textiles, adhesives and paints.

Ethane is an abundant part of the natural gas stream found in the Utica and Marcellus shales under much of Eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“JobsOhio’s revitalization grant will support initial site preparation work, which will begin later this month,” JobsOhio spokesman Matt Englehart said. “While this is an important and positive step for the project, no final investment decision has been made. JobsOhio and our partners will continue closely collaborating with PTTGC America and Daelim as they work toward a final investment decision.”

Dan Williamson, spokesman for PTT and Daelim, said the grant is good news for the project, though no decision on a final investment has been made.

Much of the site previously was FirstEnergy’s R.E. Burger Plant, a coal-fired electric generation facility and much work will be required to clean and prepare it for future industrial development, he said.

Williamson said he does not know the details of what type of work will be performed with the grant funds or how many workers will be hired to complete those tasks.

“PTTGC America and Daelim are incredibly grateful for the ongoing support from JobsOhio,” Williamson said. “Going way back to when the site was first selected, JobsOhio has been there every step of the way.”

Williamson termed JobsOhio an “outstanding” organization and said its mission is to bring jobs to eastern and southeastern Ohio.

“PTTGC America and Daelim share that passion,” Williamson said.

He also said he would expect the Dilles Bottom location to be utilized for future industry, regardless of whether PTT/Daelim ultimately build the cracker plant. He called the property a “prime job site.”

Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton said the roughly 500-acre location is worthy of investment and that he sees it as a “very developable piece of property.” It has proximity to the Ohio River and ready access to highway and rail transportation.

Like Williamson, Dutton also said he does not know the details of the work to be performed through the grant. He remains optimistic that the project will move forward.

“Things continue to be very positive with the project,” Dutton said. “We (commissioners) always appreciate the way the project team goes about their business, performing their due diligence.”

PTT first announced its plans to build an ethane cracker in Belmont County in May 2015. The following September, the company said it would spend $100 million on engineering and design for the facility.

Daelim partnered with PTT in January 2018. No timeline for a project decision has been released.

This is not the first time JobsOhio has committed money to help drive the project forward. In December 2016, JobsOhio announced a $14 million grant to FirstEnergy Corp. for the demolition and removal of the plant, an amount that was in addition to the more than $3 million that JobsOhio granted to the owners of the adjacent Ohio-West Virginia Excavating Co. property to remediate that portion of the potential petrochemical plant land.

Jennifer Compston-Strough can be contacted at jcompston@timesleaderonline.com.