Thai company moves ahead with land purchase for petrochemical plant

An Asian company considering building a giant petrochemical plant in eastern Ohio has bought land that could be used for the project if it moves forward.

PTT Global Chemical of Thailand bought the 168-acre site in Belmont County last month from Akron utility company FirstEnergy for $13.8 million, according to Belmont County property records.

The company said in February that it will decide by the end of the year whether to build the plant, often referred to as a “cracker” plant because of the process involved.

“PTTGC America made a decision that because this property is so critical to the project, it would be smart to go ahead and exercise the option now,” said Dan Williamson, a company spokesman. “While it does not mean the project will go forward, it does demonstrate how serious (the company) is about doing what it can to make it a reality.”

The site, near the village of Shadyside, was home to FirstEnergy’s R.E. Burger power plant. The plant, which closed in 2011, has been demolished and the site cleaned up.

FirstEnergy paid for the work, and JobsOhio reimbursed most of the costs, FirstEnergy said last December. JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich’s private nonprofit company, committed $14 million to clean up and prepare the site.

The plant would take ethane, a component of natural gas, and break it down to produce ethylene, which is used in chemical manufacturing. The county is an attractive site because of proximity to the plentiful gas of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The proposed plant is one of the largest development projects being courted by economic-development leaders. The company has said it is spending $100 million to determine the feasibility of the plan.

Moving forward would mean an investment of billions of dollars and be a boon to the region, generating hundreds of permanent jobs and thousands of construction jobs, according to estimates. It also could attract supporting chemical companies eager to take advantage of the plant’s production.

Williamson said the company is still determining how much land from a number of property owners would be required for the project. The FirstEnergy piece was something that the company was certain it needed to have, he said.

From Columbus Dispatch  |  July 3, 2017