Two Asian companies have delayed a decision on whether to proceed with a long-talked-about petrochemical plant for eastern Ohio.
The companies behind the project, Thai chemical company PTT Global Chemical America and South Korean partner Daelim Industrial Co., are blaming the coronavirus for delaying a decision that was supposed to be made by July.
"While, due to circumstances beyond our control related to the pandemic, we are unable to promise a firm timeline for a final investment decision, we are working hard toward that decision," the companies said in a post on their websites.
"We pledge that we will do everything within our control to make an announcement as soon as we possibly can with the goal of bringing jobs and prosperity to the Ohio Valley."
JobsOhio, the state’s economic development arm, said it is continuing to work with the companies. JobsOhio has committed $70 million in loans and grants to the project.
"This project remains a top priority," JobsOhio said in a statement. "We understand that the pandemic will delay some project decisions that companies may make. JobsOhio continues to be in close communication with the PTTGCA and Daelim teams in regard to their plans in Belmont County."
The delay is adding to what already has been a lengthy process for determining whether the companies will go ahead.
PTT announced in 2015 that it was considering the site, once the home of a coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River near Shadyside, for the project. PTT later brought on Daelim as a partner.
If they go ahead, it would be an economic boon for the region, employing several thousand workers during construction and several hundred once the plant became operational.
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 its proximity to the plentiful, cheap natural gas of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Critics, though, have complained about potential greenhouse gas emissions should the project proceed.
Despite the delay, the companies say work is proceeding.
"We have completed the first phase of site preparation and engineering work, and we will continue to invest in the safety of the surrounding neighborhood by demolishing vacant structures," the companies said.
"Meanwhile, project leaders are working with our key partners toward a final investment decision for the project."