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Ohio ethane cracker plant closer to reality on former FirstEnergy property

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Thai petrochemical company considering Southeast Ohio as the future site of $6 billion ethane "cracker" plant has bought a portion of the land it will need.

PTT Global Chemical America has paid FirstEnergy Corp $13.8 million for a 168-acre parcel overlooking the Ohio River in Dillies Bottom, an unincorporated area in Belmont County.

The purchase does not guarantee the cracker will be built, said a company spokesman. PTT Global has said it will make its final decisions on the project by the end of this year. PTT Global has been considering the project for about four years.

FirstEnergy demolished its old coal-and-oil-fired R.E. Burger power plant and cleaned up the site in the fall of 2016.

The company took a $14 million loan from JobsOhio, a private, non-profit corporation, to do the demolition and cleanup work.

Under the terms of the loan, JobsOhio forgave the loan when FirstEnergy could show proof that it had the work done properly and had paid for it, something PTT Global also needed to know. That occurred in June, said FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young.

FirstEnergy and PTT Global signed the sale agreement on June 8, she said. The deed transfer was recorded on June 30, according to documents on file at the Belmont County Recorder's Office. No announcement was made.

"It's not all the property that PTT Global will need, but it's an essential piece of property," said Dan Williamson, spokesman for PTT Global and a vice president at Columbus-based Paul Werth Communications.

He cautioned that the land purchase does not guarantee that PTT Global will build the massive refining complex, creating 500 or more jobs and hundreds more in related industries.

"Even though the company has not made its final investment decision, they made the calculation that if they do go forward they will absolutely need the property," he explained.

Estimates about how many acres PTT Global will need have varied, with some previously published reports stating such a refinery would need 400 to 500 acres.

Williamson said the company will not determine exactly how many acres it needs until it completes further analysis to determine how large a refinery to build.

"They don't have a design yet and therefore they do not yet know how many acres they will need," he said. "And the purchase does not mean the project is absolutely coming. There is still a lot to be figured out.

"What you can take it to mean is that they are very serious about the project and they want it to happen," Williamson said.

Because an ethane cracker produces polyethylene, the basic building block of the plastics industry, the project has been a key initiative of JobsOhio and the Gov. John Kasich administration, which reasons that the cracker would lead to redevelopment of the state's polymer industry, creating hundreds of additional jobs. It would also create thousands of temporary construction jobs.

A cracker would also use the state's plentiful shale gas to create value here rather than see it fill pipelines for uses elsewhere.

Because of that economic development potential, JobsOhio has worked closely and will continue to work closely with PTT Global, said Matt Englehart, the development firm's spokesman.

In addition to the $14 million loan-turned-grant that JobsOhio awarded to FirstEnergy last fall, the firm has made other grants totaling another $6.45 million to spur development of the cracker project.

They include:

    • A $1.45 million economic development grant to PTT Global last month to help with the purchase of the FirstEnergy property;
    • A $2 million revitalization grant to FirstEnergy Generation, LLC, in June 2016 in connection with the closing of Burger;
    • A $3 million revitalization grant to Ohio-West Virginia Excavating Co. in June 2015. The company owns property near the former FirstEnergy property that PTT Global may need for the project. PTT Global has an option to buy the land.

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From the April 2018 issue of Hydrocarbon Processing


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