Crackers more lucrative in Marcellus region

PURCHASE AGREEMENT — Officials with PTT Global Chemical said they have an agreement to acquire the Ohio-West Virginia Excavating property at Dilles Bottom, which would give the firm and its new partner, Daelim Industrial Co., about 500 acres to build an ethane cracker. -- Casey Junkins

DILLES BOTTOM — Officials representing those who may build an ethane cracker valued at up to $10 billion in Belmont County said they will acquire the Ohio-West Virginia Excavating property along the Ohio River, which would give them nearly 500 acres for the giant plant.

As Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical and South Korea’s Daelim Industrial Co. are working toward constructing the plant at Dilles Bottom, a new study shows building an ethane cracker in Ohio, West Virginia or Pennsylvania produces more value than a comparable plant along the Gulf Coast.

Presently, there are multiple ethane crackers in Texas and Louisiana. There are interstate pipelines, such as the ATEX Express, that ship ethane drawn from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions to the Gulf Coast for cracking.

Despite ongoing efforts in Belmont County, in addition to the work by Royal Dutch Shell to complete an ethane cracker north of Pittsburgh, there is still no such plant in Ohio, West Virginia or Pennsylvania.

However, officials with the Shale Crescent USA group, which represents several industry organizations in the Marcellus and Utica region, believe they are on track to see ethane crackers built. They believe processing the ethane into ethylene and polyethylene near the Eastern Seaboard will reduce costs. This is because the ethane would no longer have to be shipped southward for processing — and then shipped northward again to reach the market as finished plastic products.

“The region has an abundance of natural resources at costs below their Gulf Coast equivalents. It is in close proximity to a very large installed base of plastics manufacturing customers, and the region benefits from reasonable costs of doing business,” said Ron Whitfield, who wrote the study commissioned by Shale Crescent.

“This ultimately leads to lower delivered costs of polyethylene, which is used to manufacture a multitude of consumer goods — everything from food packaging to household containers.”

“The region boasts a number of major advantages, including access to some of the lowest natural gas prices in the developed world from the abundant Marcellus and Utica shale formations. When taken with the close proximity to more than two-thirds of the domestic market for polyethylene consumption, it means we are the most profitable location for a petrochemical project,” Shale Crescent spokesman Jerry James added.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, lauded the study.

“We have an abundant natural gas supply, access to water, proximity to major markets, and a ready and skilled labor force. It’s a major reason that an international petrochemical company is considering building an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County — which would be the largest construction project in Ohio history,” Johnson said.

Although an ethane cracker would bring thousands of jobs to Belmont County, it would also bring a variety of air pollutants. This summer, residents should have the opportunity to comment on the air quality permit being sought by PTT, according to Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler.

According to the permit Royal Dutch Shell filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection a few years ago for its ethane cracker north of Pittsburgh, air pollutants likely associated with an ethane cracker include nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon dioxide equivalents, xylene and benzene.

Last year, the Ohio EPA issued a permit allowing PTT Global Chemical to discharge wastewater into the Ohio River.


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