Ohio regulatory approvals bring second 'cracker' plant in region closer to reality
Southeastern Ohio has moved closer to joining Southwestern Pennsylvania as the location of an ethane “cracker” plant that could be a boon for employment for the natural gas industry and plastics manufacturers.
The proposed plant near Shadyside, Ohio, in Belmont County, cleared its final regulatory hurdles in late December, when the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of air and water pollution discharge permits.
The approval came at about the same time the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved permits for a pipeline that will serve the ethane cracker plant being built on the banks of the Ohio River in Potter Township, Beaver County.
Royal Dutch Shell is building the $6 billion facility near Monaca with a view toward using ethane from the Marcellus and Utica shale reservoirs and processing it into ethylene and, finally, polyethylene for the plastics industry.
The Ohio plant, if built, will occupy the former R.E. Burger Power Station south of Shadyside, also on the Ohio River. Although PTT Global Chemical and its partner, the South Korea-based Daelim Industrial Co., have purchased 500 acres for construction, no formal announcement has been made.
The partnership, announced about a year ago, nearly doubled the amount of ethylene the plant would be able to produce. PTT Global Chemical first expressed interest in the Ohio site in 2015.
Although the Beaver County project received its air and water permits in June 2015, Royal Dutch Shell did not make a final decision until June 2016 — more than four years after it picked a site at a shuttered zinc smelter along the Ohio River.
Construction began in earnest in late 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2020.
Industry experts believe the Marcellus and Utica shales in the Appalachian basin contain enough ethane to sustain several petrochemical plants.
In December, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report calling on the establishment of a second ethane storage and distribution hub in Appalachia to complement the one on the Gulf Coast.
The United States is now the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world, with an additional benefit in the form of increased natural gas liquids such as ethane. Ethane production in the Appalachian basin is projected to continue its rapid growth through 2025 to a total of 640,000 barrels per day, more than 20 times greater than just five years ago, the report said.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, email@example.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.