Work on Dilles Bottom Cracker Plant Continues
DILLES BOTTOM — The skyline alongside the Ohio River will soon change, as contractors plan to demolish the stack of the R.E. Burger Plant by the end of the month to make room for a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker.
Since officials with Royal Dutch Shell confirmed plans to build their giant petrochemical plant near Monaca, Pa., anticipation for the PTT Global America project in Belmont County has continued building. Although PTT executives had hoped to make a final investment determination this year, company spokesman Dan Williamson this week said the final decision will likely occur next year.
“We are continuing the front-end engineering design process. The site remediation is also in progress. We will have enough information to announce a final investment decision in the first quarter of 2017,” Williamson said.
As contractors working for FirstEnergy Corp. work to clear the former R.E. Burger Plant for about one-third of the land needed to construct the massive ethane cracker, many of those living to the west of Burger are learning they would need to move if Thailand-based PTT elects to proceed with the project. Company officials maintain it is too early to tell what properties they will need to build the plant, but some residents say officials have been in touch with them about acquiring their land.
Some industry followers believe the lack of underground ethane storage capacity in Ohio, West Virginia or Pennsylvania will make it more difficult to support a cracker in the Marcellus and Utica region. Williamson, however, said the ethane supply is prolific enough to overcome this problem.
“Ethane storage is something that is good to have, but not a must. Even without the storage, (the) existing pipeline network is reliable enough,” he said.
Along with propane, butane and pentane, ethane is one of the liquids prevalent in Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas streams. Earlier this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said domestic ethane production should grow from 1.1 million barrels per day in 2015 to 1.4 million barrels each day in 2017, an increase of 300,000 barrels daily.
Much of the projected increase is due to Marcellus and Utica shale production. Most of region’s ethane, at this point, is either blended into the methane stream for marketing as natural gas, or shipped to other regions for cracking via pipeline.
Williamson said Shell’s decision to build in Pennsylvania will have no impact on PTT’s project, nor will any of the several ethane pipeline projects in the area.
“There is no concern with the ethane being sent away from the region. Ethane in this region is still sufficient to supply to our project,” he said.
Paul Wojciechowski, project director for PTT, recently said plans call for having infrastructure onsite that would “crack” the ethane into ethylene. He said additional infrastructure at the Dilles Bottom site would then 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.
Last year, Belmont County commissioners and officials with Jobs Ohio confirmed they were considering “incentives” to give PTT to proceed, which could include tax discounts or abatements.
When asked if the plant developers intended to pay property taxes in Ohio, Williamson said, “We are currently in discussion with the state of Ohio and/or Belmont County on this matter.”
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