Plans for a second petrochemical complex in the Appalachian region, which have been on hold for two years due to the pandemic and the loss of a financial partner, may still have life. PTTGC, a Thailand-based company that has been planning the Belmont County, Ohio, project since 2015 and has already invested more than $300 million, announced recently that it will submit a new application for an air permit to state authorities. A final investment decision on the project has been repeatedly delayed and after financial partner Daelim, a South Korean chemical company, backed out and COVID-19 locked down the economy in 2020, PTTGC announced the project was on indefinite hold. “PTTGC America is in the process of drafting an application for an air permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in accordance with its parent company’s Net Zero commitment. Ohio EPA issued an initial air permit-to-install for PTTGCA’s proposed petrochemical complex in Belmont County in December of 2018,” a press release states. However, that permit expired in February. “The forthcoming resubmission of its permit application will be consistent with the ambitious environmental protection goal announced last year by GC, PTTGCA’s Thai-based parent company. GC announced in October it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030 and achieve a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 in order to fight climate change.” The statement also said the company “has prioritized identifying potential partners in order to move the project forward.” However, the company also repaid $20 million to Ohio’s private economic development office, JobsOhio, because of its failure to make a final investment decision. The Associated Press reported that the $20 million was paid to Bechtel Corp. in 2019 to do site engineering and preparation at the property along the Ohio River in Belmont County, adjacent to West Virginia’s northern panhandle. “A 2020 JobsOhio Revitalization Grant of $20 million for the project was repaid to JobsOhio, which is a repayment of a portion of dollars that were utilized for site prep, grading, and engineering work.,” JobsOhio spokesman Matt Englehart said in an emailed statement. “PTTGCA remains committed to the project, and JobsOhio and its partners continue to work closely with PTTGCA to bring the project to a positive final investment decision. The ethane feedstock at a major cost advantage, access to the Ohio River and the proximity to North American ethylene demand remain in Belmont County. PTTGCA has invested more than $300 million in the site and is actively pursuing investors.” JobsOhio has also given the developer an additional $50 million in grants. The PTTGC facility would be similar in size to the Shell cracker plant being built in Beaver County, Pa., and would represent an investment of almost $6 billion. The project could mean a big boost for the Ohio Valley area, which has lost significant manufacturing jobs. However, even as the economic development agreement was announced, some analysts were raising concerns about whether the Ohio plant would move forward, and whether the buildout of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia will occur, due to negative market conditions from the pandemic and a move away from plastics.
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