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PTTGCA officials deny report of further project delays

MORE QUESTIONS — Crews in this 2016 file photo finish clearing the former FirstEnergy R.E. Burger Plant site in Belmont County for potential development of the PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker complex. PTTGCA denied a recent report that the project would be further delayed. -- File

A company spokesman said a report Thursday that the proposed PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker project will be further delayed is “just not true.”

The Bangkok Post reported that PTTGC CEO Kongkrapan Intarajang announced that a final investment decision on the project would be delayed to give the company time to trim down development costs and to secure a new business partner for the venture. But Dan Williamson, Columbus-based spokesman for PTTGC America, denied the report, citing other accounts of the same conversation that did not indicate Kongkrapan made such an announcement.

“The story is just not true,” Williamson said, referring to the CEO with a moniker used by many associated with the project. “Dr. K did not say that. … As I understand it, he’s committing to a midyear announcement.”

Williamson said he had been told by PTTGCA officials that the Bangkok Post “just got it wrong.” He speculated that something “got lost in interpretation,” acknowledging that language differences can create challenges in international business dealings.

“According to PTT officials, he said the opposite,” Williamson continued. “He committed to a midyear announcement this year. Nothing has changed in the timeline as the company sees it.”

Williamson said the article had “created a lot of confusion” Thursday. He noted he could not prove what “Dr. K” did or did not say, as there is no recording or transcript of the conversation the Bangkok Post referenced. In addition to company officials, Williamson cited a Bloomberg report on the same discussion that did not include mention of any further FID delay.

PTTGC is Thailand’s largest petrochemical producer, according to the Bangkok Post. Its American subsidiary, PTTGCA, is exploring the Belmont County project. It already purchased and cleared a 500-acre site along the Ohio River and has invested millions in property acquisition and site preparation. The company announced last year that the FID was indefinitely delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the withdrawal of its South Korean partner, Daelim Chemical.

Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry, who works on behalf of the county on economic development projects including the proposed cracker plant, was immediately skeptical of the report.

“I question the accuracy,” he said. “I was on a call with team leaders about a week ago. The project continues to move ahead. They are continuing to work on agreements and talking about the future.

“What I am experiencing from the company contradicts what they are reporting.”

Merry said PTTGCA continues to secure ethane supply and storage agreements in anticipation of building the facility, which would use six natural gas-fired furnaces to “crack,” or break apart, ethane molecules. The resulting ethylene or polyethylene could be used as components of plastics, textiles and household or industrial chemicals.

Ethane is a natural gas liquid that is abundant in the local natural gas stream. Plans are evolving for construction of an ethane storage facility in northern Monroe County, in salt caverns located about 8 miles from the PTTGCA site at Dilles Bottom.

“I’m looking very forward to some different announcements dealing with these projects in the next few months,” Merry added.

Opponents of the project questioned its viability and said the report is the latest in a series of “reevaluations, extensions and missed deadlines.”

The Concerned Ohio River Residents and the Sierra Club issued a release citing the Institute for Economics and Financial Analysis statement that “an ongoing global plastics and oil supply glut has slashed market prices by nearly 50 percent since the project’s initial proposal, driving forecasted profit margins well below investment targets.”

The groups tout “a cleaner, more sustainable and financially viable alternative” industry and a more diversified economy not tied to fossil fuels as the best path forward for the region.

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