OEPA Issues Permits for Belmont County Cracker Plant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has issued the $5.7 billion ethane cracker project in Belmont County a permit to discharge wastewater into the Ohio River.

PTT Global Chemicals, based in Thailand, is contemplating building a giant ethane cracker at Dilles Bottom in Belmont County. The project would create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs.

The Ohio EPA issued three permits – two discharge permits and a 401 Water Quality Certificate — after holding public meetings in September. The two discharge permits cover wastewater and storm water dumped into Lockwood Run and then the Ohio River.

A 401 Certificate is a required provision in an application with the Army Corps of Engineers, which would allow the discharge of dredged fill material into streams and wetlands during the construction phase of the project.

“We held two hearings on the permits, and the response was positive from the community,” said Dan Williamson, spokesman for PTT Global’s American subsidiary, PTTGC America. “The EPA determined that the safeguards are in place.”

The EPA said that permitted discharges might result in changes in current water quality, but cannot violate Ohio standards for water quality. In this particular case, the EPA incorporated changes into the permits that include strengthened the monitoring requirements and a more detailed analysis of wastewater intake.

According to documents filed with the EPA, many residents spoke in favor of the plant, many calling it “transformative” for this region of Ohio. Others were concerned about toxins that would be discharged into the water and emissions from the plant into the air.

The Ohio EPA is still reviewing the company’s air quality permit application and public meetings regarding air permits have not been scheduled, Williamson said.

PTTGC America is expected to make its final investment decision by the end of March. Demolition has begun at the site, helped by a JobsOhio grant that helped First Energy Corp. clean up a portion of 500 acres in Meade Township along the Ohio River.

“The company has not adjusted its timeline,” Williamson said.

PTTGC America announced last year it would spend $100 million to conduct a front-end engineering and design study on a new cracker plant.

A cracker plant takes ethane gas from processors and converts it into polyethylene, a base ingredient in thousands of plastic products. Companies have targeted this region of the country because of the hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas in the Utica shale in Ohio and the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Officials have said that ethane crackers, a vital component of the petrochemicals industry, could help stimulate the region’s economy by attracting plastics manufacturers and suppliers.

A similar cracker project is underway in Monaca, Pa., where Royal Dutch Shell is building a $6 billion cracker plant along the Ohio River. Last year, Shell announced it would move forward with the long-anticipated project.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.