If the development of a "world-scale" petrochemical plant in Belmont County comes to fruition, the economic impact will be felt far and wide in this region, according to experts in the gas and oil industry.
Dan Alfaro of Energy In Depth - Ohio referred to what he called "profound" economic impact.
"The latest report coming from the International Energy Agency shows petrochemicals are going to be the largest driver of global oil demand in the decades to come, while another recent report from IHS shows the Ohio River Valley region to be the most profitable place in the country to build a new petrochemical plant," Alfaro said. "Just a few months ago, Energy Secretary (Rick) Perry was trumpeting the notion that the potential for a petrochemical hub in Appalachia presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for this country, and he is right. These investments here make sense, financially, for the industry.
"Shell’s cracker facility just over the border in Pennsylvania was a big first step for the region in harnessing the potential we have here for success now and in the future with more projects like this being planned and ultimately coming to fruition.
"These projects are massive investments that have profound, positive economic implications for the area in terms of job creation, regional investment and revenue generated for the communities they’re operating in. The development of the Utica and Marcellus in Ohio has been a great boon to the region’s economy and workforce, and the arrival and growth of a petrochemical industry that’s drawn here because of the abundance of natural resources and geographic advantages of the area is going to have the same sort of positive impact."
Nick Homrighausen, executive director of Community and Economic Development for Harrison County, calls the area to be affected by the cracker plant as "polymer alley," referring to what he believes will be outgrowths of industrial development up and down the east side of Ohio.
"From the standpoint of surrounding counties," Homrighausen said, "we have a massive amount of existing pipelines and existing plastic and polymer plants in the area who will benefit from ‘feed stock’ being available.
As an example, Homrighausen pointed to Boltaron in Newcomerstown and plastic plants in the Dover and New Philadelphia areas. He also mentioned the cooperation of officials throughout the region, mentioning Norm Blanchard of the Community Improvement Corporation in Cambridge and Guernsey County.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," Homrighausen said. "We’re all hoping to see development over the coming years. There’s nothing quick about this process."
The U.S. subsidiary of PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC America) has selected a site in Mead Township along the Ohio River in Belmont County, for the possible construction of a world-scale petrochemical complex, which is also known as an ethane cracker.
PTTGC America’s Board of Directors has approved the execution of an agreement between PTTGCA and a subsidiary of Daelim Industrial Co., Ltd., a leading Korean construction and chemical company, to conduct a feasibility study and secure funding for the development of the complex.
The website for the project notes that petrochemical complexes are "enormous capital investments with long lifespans and employ highly skilled workers: chemical engineers, chemists, lab technicians and other highly paid employees … If built, this facility would create hundreds of full-time jobs, thousands of construction jobs and multibillion dollars in investments.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency completed its environmental review of the project, issuing the air permit and the waterways discharge permit in December of 2018. The EPA said these permits ensure that the facility, if built, will not have an adverse affect on the air, the water or the health of the surrounding communities.
At a meeting hosted by the Ohio EPA in Shadyside late last year, Mike Chadsey, director of public relations for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, was quoted as saying he strongly supports the project and the "thousands of jobs and billions in economic investment and growth it will bring to the entire area."
"Tonight we heard some comments from those who oppose the project of the F.U.D. factor variety, which is fear, uncertainty and doubt," Chadsey said. "While misleading comments earn headlines, they do nothing to advance the well-being of folks in this community. Plastics are not the evil they were made out to be this evening. Plastics enhance the human condition."
Also speaking were Belmont County Commissioners J.P. Dutton and Mark Thomas and Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry.
PTT spokesman Dan Williamson was quoted in the Martins Ferry Times Leader saying despite the fact that some people spoke against the project, the feedback he has heard about the companies’ plans has been "overwhelmingly positive." He said that was reflected during the hearing in comments from labor organizers such as Ginny Favede of Project BEST and local government officials, including Dutton and Mead Township Trustee Ed Good.
"We heard a diverse chorus of people from both sides of the river who are very excited about the project," Williamson said. "That is what we have consistently heard from the community since people started talking about the project."
Williamson also complimented the OPEA officials who conducted the hearing.
"The EPA has been extremely professional in how they’ve been dealing with this … ," Williamson said, terming the agency a "class act."
"It was really nice to hear a robust discussion of the project," he added. "PTTGC and Daelim appreciate everybody who came out. It was a long night, a cold night. The fact that some 140 people come out to talk about the project from a variety of perspectives was healthy."
PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) is Thailand’s largest and Asia’s leading integrated petrochemical and refining company. With more than 4,000 employees around the globe, the company says its vision is "to be a leading chemical company for better living, helping to create a better quality of life through our products and production processes."