A Thai petrochemical and refining company is considering Belmont County, Ohio as a possible site to build a refinery that would make ethylene and other plastics from shale gas. PTT Global Chemical, Thailand’s largest integrated petrochemical and refining company and the Marubeni Corp., a Japanese investment adviser, have discussed the project for the last two years with JobsOhio and its regional arm, the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth. If built, such a refinery, often called a “cracker,” could cost several billion dollars, create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs. A final decision will take the next 12 to 16 months, said JobsOhio, as PTT and Marubeni complete engineering designs and obtain state and local permits.
Shale gas includes a mixture of methane and other gases such as ethane, propane and butane. While methane is used as a fuel, the other gases, particularly ethane are broken down, or “cracked” in refineries to produce ethylene and similar hydrocarbons that are the “building blocks” of the polymer and plastics industries, which produce everything from plastic parts to consumer packaging, textiles and pharmaceuticals. An Ohio cracker — or one in West Virginia or Pennsylvania — is considered crucial to accelerating growth of the region’s plastics industry. As many as three other companies, including Shell Chemical, have been considering building crackers here.
We should be exploring how this proposed development could spur the growth of our plastics and chemical industries in Ashtabula County. We are not that far away!
On a personal note, I grew up in Belmont County (Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville) in the 1950s and 1960s. The area’s economy has been in decline since the late 1970s; a situation not unlike many other Ohio counties depending upon old line manufacturing. The shale gas and oil boom in eastern Ohio has helped Belmont County to some degree, although most of the benefit of the boom has occurred in the counties north of Belmont County.