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Senior DOE Official Expresses Support for Ohio Petrochemical Plant

Although a final investment decision has yet to be made, a top U.S. Department of Energy official paid a visit earlier this month to site of the proposed PTTGC petrochemical plant in Belmont County, Ohio.

Deputy Secretary Mark Menezes toured the site along the Ohio River and then held a roundtable discussion with state and local leaders about the project to demonstrate the Trump administration’s support for the project.

If it is built, it would be the second petrochemical plant in the Appalachian Basin, and similar to the Shell plant now under construction in Beaver County, Pa. It would use ethane, a byproduct of the abundant natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale as feedstock to be converted into ethylene and polyethylene, from which plastics, resins, solvents, and other industrial products are made.

The developer of the project, PTTGC, based in Thailand, has repeatedly pushed back the timetable for making a final investment decision on the project, which is now expected by early next year. However, Daelim Chemical, a South Korean company, in July withdrew as an equity partner, citing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and oil price volatility as reasons for the decision.

PTTGC said it remained committed to the project and would seek new partners for the project. It also announced that it had reached a preliminary agreement with Energy Storage Ventures for its Mountaineer NGL Storage to provide underground storage in salt caverns to ensure a steady supply of the natural gas liquids used as feedstock for the plant.

“The president remains committed to the success of the Ohio Petrochemical Complex Project and the continued development of the Appalachian region’s natural gas resources,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

Menezes said that the project is a top priority. The Department of Energy recently released a report titled the “Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance,” outlining potential opportunities for economic growth in the Appalachian region.

JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development organization, has given the developer $50 million in grants for the Belmont County project. The first phase of site preparation has already been completed and environmental permits have been obtained.

A recent study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis determined that the project faces significant risks and said the financial outlook is dim.

Whether the project makes financial sense for developers risking billions of dollars, and what type of support the Trump administration might provide to the project will be the determining factors in whether this build out of the petrochemical industry in the Appalachian Basin happens.

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