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Belmont County Cracker Plant Indefinitely Delayed Again, Casting Doubt on Project's Viability

The Dilles Bottom site will remain vacant for the foreseeable future. Photo by Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance, April 2019.

Thai petrochemical giant PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) announced this morning that it will again be indefinitely delaying a final investment decision (FID) on the ethane cracker plant proposed for construction in Dilles Bottom, Ohio. In an interview with the Bangkok Post, PTTGC chief executive Kongkrapan Intarajang cited a need to “trim down development costs” and “find a new business partner.” The announcement marks the latest delay in a years-long series of reevaluations, extensions, and missed deadlines.

Two of PTTGC’s former partners, Japan’s Marubeni Corporation and Korea’s Daelim Chemical, abandoned the petrochemical project due to economic concerns, casting doubt on the company’s new efforts to secure financial support. And stiff market headwinds continue to hamper the ethane cracker’s viability: according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), an ongoing global plastics and oil supply glut has slashed market prices by nearly 50% since the project’s initial proposal, driving forecasted profit margins well below investment targets.

"The economics do not make sense, which is why PTTGCA has not gone forward," Kathy Hipple, professor of finance at Bard College and former IEEFA financial analyst, said during a recent forum hosted by the Ohio River Valley Institute.

If constructed, the complex would ‘crack’ feedstock from fracked gas into ethylene, a component of single-use plastic manufacturing. The process would release hundreds of tons of hazardous airborne pollutants into local communities, potentially causing or exacerbating an array of short- and long-term health problems among nearby residents.

"This dirty, dangerous cracker plant would threaten the health of our air, water, climate, and communities and only lead to more fracking here in Ohio,” said Shelly Corbin, a Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “As this most recent delay shows, the PTTGC project is a risky bet for investors and a losing proposition for Ohioans. The taxpayers of Ohio should demand their representatives not waste another dime on this doomed cracker plant and invest instead in clean, sustainable projects.”

Despite the financial uncertainty surrounding the project, state and regional development organizations continue to sink public resources into courting PTT Global Chemical’s business. JobsOhio, the private economic development arm of the state of Ohio, has already invested $70 million in public funds on developing the Dilles Bottom site. Local residents are left with no economic benefit from the investment already made in the location, which could be better developed with a cleaner, more sustainable and financially viable alternative industries for a diversified economy not tied to fossil fuels.

Concerned Ohio River Residents and its partners see this announcement as yet another indication that we need to plan our own future, steering away from foreign investors who care nothing about the detrimental health impacts imposed upon local residents by a major polluter like an ethane cracker plant.

CORR invites all local residents, elected officials and decision-makers to join them in crafting a better vision for the valley that will improve public health, preserve the region's beauty and environment and bring long-term economic prosperity.

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