The facility, commonly referred to as an ethane cracker, would convert ethane, a byproduct of natural gas drilling, into a hydrocarbon called ethylene that’s further processed and used for plastics production and has other industrial uses.
Monday’s announcement again stopped short of a full commitment by either firm to build the plant, but JobsOhio officials said that decision could come by the end of 2018.
The uncertain future of the project has caused concern in an Appalachian region of the state that’s counting on the project to create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions. PTT officials said in February 2017 that the company would decide by the end of that year whether to build the plant. That was after previously saying the announcement would come in the spring of 2017.
PTT has spent more than $100 million on planning work that includes engineering and design, company and JobsOhio officials said.
The new partnership’s plans call for building a plant capable of producing 1.5 million metric tons (1.65 million tons) of ethylene a year, which would be a 50 percent increase in capacity over what PTT originally proposed.
JobsOhio, funded by state liquor proceeds, has spent $19 million toward the effort. Those funds have paid for demolition of the R.E. Burger power plant in an unincorporated area of Belmont County known as Dilles Bottom and the removal of environmental hazards to make the 168-acre (68-hectare) site ready for construction.
PTT is exercising an option to buy an additional 300 acres (121 hectares), which company spokesman Dan Williamson said is further evidence of the partnership’s commitment to the project.