Belmont, OH Leaders Say PTT Cracker Decision Coming This Year

Last Friday three county commissioners from Belmont County, OH took a field trip to visit Beaver County, PA, touring the Shell ethane cracker site and talking with Beaver County officials about how the project has impacted that area. Tuesday night, a member of the Potter Township (PA) Board of Supervisors came to a meeting of local leaders in Belmont County, to talk about the Shell cracker project and what such a project in Belmont could do for the Ohio Valley. PTT Global Chemical is supposedly close to making a final investment decision on building a cracker in Belmont. The interesting comment coming from Tuesday’s meeting was about the timing of a decision to build the PTT cracker: “It [the decision] will be revealed by the end of the year.” So says Belmont officials.
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Petrochemicals & Shale – Joined at the Hip (IEA Report)

On numerous occasions we’ve pointed out the lunacy of the “keep it in the ground” gang–those who believe we should end the use of all fossil fuels as soon as possible. Why can’t we do it? For many reasons. Here’s just one: petrochemicals. Did you know that all sorts of products you use every day–things like plastics, fertilizers, packaging, clothing, digital devices, medical equipment, detergents and tires–come from oil and gas? Without oil and gas, we’d quickly descend back into the Stone Age, living short, brutish lives. That point was driven home in a new report titled “The Future of Petrochemicals” (full copy below), part of an International Energy Agency (IEA) series that shines a light on “blind spots” in the global energy system.
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30-Story Quench Tower Set in Place for Shell Ethane Cracker

On Sunday, what will be the tallest and heaviest piece of equipment that’s part of the mighty $6 billion Shell ethane cracker in Monaca (Beaver County), PA was hoisted into place. It’s called a “quench tower” and it looks like a humongous silo. It’s 300-feet high, which translates into about 30 stories. One of the world’s largest cranes had to be reserved a year ago in order to do the lifting. It took all day, but by 3:30 pm, the quench tower was standing upright–yet another monument to the power of the Marcellus Shale.
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Rumblings that PTT Will Once Again Delay OH Cracker Decision

PTT Global Chemical announced in April 2015 they want to build a $6 billion ethane cracker plant complex in Belmont County, OH (see It’s Official: Belmont County Chosen as POSSIBLE Cracker Plant Site). Since that time PTT has purchased land, paid $100 million to get the cracker facility designed, and repeatedly said a final investment decision (FID) is imminent. It’s been imminent for more than two years now, and rumor has it the decision is delayed yet again.
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WV Leaders Discuss “Downstream” NatGas Development

Some 200 business and government leaders in West Virginia attended the state’s Economic Outlook Conference in Charleston this past Wednesday. A key focus of the event was a panel discussion on the topic of “downstream” natural gas development–meaning ethane cracker plants and manufacturing plants to take advantage of the coming flood of cheap plastics from cracker plants. The speakers spoke of urgency, to prevent a generational opportunity from slipping away.
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Turning Ethane into Plastics – A Primer for Anti-Fossil Fuelers

Without natural gas, modern life as humans know it would cease. And no, that’s not hyperbole or bluster. And yet, non-thinking anti-fossil fuel protesters refuse to acknowledge that basic truth. We spotted an excellent article in Forbes that outlines the vital importance of shale gas (specifically the ethane that comes as part of shale gas extraction). We love the straightforward simplicity of the article in describing how the shale ecosystem works–and how it touches on virtually every aspect of our modern existence.
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Shell PA Cracker Already Attracting New Factories…to Ohio

Stark County, OH

The Stark County (OH) Economic Development Board has landed what is hopefully the first (of many) tenants from the plastics manufacturing industry. IML Containers was looking for a spot to locate a new plant near one of their big customers, Land O’Lakes (has a facility in Cleveland). Stark County offered a small tax break, and the big advantage of being close to the under-construction Shell ethane cracker in Beaver County, PA. It’s also close to a likely second cracker plant in Belmont County, OH. IML makes plastic shipping containers for Land O’Lakes, and plans to set up “research and development, die cutting, molding, production and warehousing for packaging use with a variety of food products” at their Stark facility. IML is beginning now, at a temporary location (70 new jobs!) and will build a new plant in the next two years. In addition to a cheap source of plastics from the crackers, another advantage is being located within a six-hour drive of most of IML’s North American customers…
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“Cracker Effect” – Shell Plant Will Create 7,400 Permanent Jobs

Ever hear of the “cracker effect”? No, we hadn’t either. Not until we read about a new study by a husband and wife team from Washington & Jefferson College. The pair studied the economic impact of cracker plants on surrounding communities–some 34 ethane crackers in 16 counties around the country. Most of the cracker plants are located along the Gulf Coast. The purpose of the study is to accurately forecast what will happen with Shell’s new $6 billion ethane cracker currently under construction in Beaver County, near Pittsburgh. What might the real, measurable economic effect be from Shell’s cracker? According to the authors, the Shell cracker will generate ~7,400 permanent, long-term jobs. Crackers not only create new jobs, they boost wages in cracker counties by nearly 13% over counties without crackers. But counties without a cracker plant benefit too. Counties bordering counties with a cracker plant see lower unemployment rates. No mystery there. While the authors alluded to some negatives from crackers, we were hard-pressed to find any! It sure looks like everything is coming up roses with the Shell cracker. The numbers prove it…
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7 Green Groups Attack Shell Ethane Pipeline “Exemptions”

Seven radical green groups–Sierra Club, Clean Air Council (CAC), FracTracker Alliance, Earthworks, PennFuture, Breathe Project, Environmental Integrity Project–sent a protest letter last week to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection objecting to a request by Shell that its 97-mile Falcon Ethane Pipeline be granted certain air permit exemptions. Shell is asking the DEP to determine whether or not (hopefully not) any emissions coming from the pipeline would be “minor sources,” exempting the pipeline from certain permits. The rads are telling the DEP to deny that request, in an attempt to slow or even stop the project. With no ethane, Shell’s $6 billion cracker plant, currently under construction, can’t begin operation. Will the DEP do the right thing and ignore these nutters?…
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Small Group of Old Hippies Oppose Shell Ethane Pipeline

A small group boasting a big name, The Breathe Project, recently sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection proclaiming their opposition to Shell’s planned Falcon Ethane Pipeline–a 97-mile pipeline system with two “legs” that will feed Shell’s mighty ethane cracker plant now under construction in Monaca, PA. Right. So the DEP and Shell should simply give up on the $6 billion ethane cracker, which can’t operate without ethane to feed it–ethane that will flow through this pipeline. Of course the group’s opposition is for show, maybe for fundraising, and certainly not serious. The funny thing for us was in viewing a picture of some of the members of the group, standing around clutching signs that say SHELL FALCON PIPELINE with a big circle/slash through it. The group, when you look at them, is the geriatric squad. Old folks. In our opinion, they look like old hippies–people who likely protested the Vietnam War in the 60s and have now found their new reason for living–to defeat a small ethane pipeline. On Thursday a tiny protest of the Falcon Pipeline (under two dozen people) caught the interest of the Pittsburgh Business Times on a slow news day…
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Shell Ethane Cracker Gets Reprieve from Trump Steel Quotas

Shell ethane cracker plant under construction in Monaca, PA – so many cranes you can’t count them!

RINO Pat Toomey can rest easy–there will be no delays in building the $6 billion Shell ethane cracker near Pittsburgh. The Trump Administration previously slapped a 25% tariff (i.e. tax) AND quotas on imported steel coming from countries dumping steel in our markets, driving out our own steel industry. Last week Trump lifted the quota from steel coming from certain countries, including Brazil. Shell is getting steel they need for the cracker from Brazil. Indeed, Shell’s Brazilian steel is already sitting in a U.S. port, undelivered due to the quota (a limit on how much can be imported). Now Shell’s steel can get shipped to Pittsburgh and used by the army of people working there. But get this: Shell will still have to pay the 25% tariff/extra charge for their Brazilian steel. Toomey, an early and persistent Trump critic (and a DC swamp dweller), one of PA’s two U.S. Senators, recently claimed Trump’s quotas/tariffs would result in layoffs and delays at the cracker (see Sen. Pat Toomey Claims Trump Tariffs Will Delay Shell Cracker). With that barrier now gone, Toomey will have to find something else to criticize about Trump. How about his hair?…
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Is the Appalachian NGL Storage Hub Close to Reality?

A pair of recent stories shows that progress is being made with respect to building an ethane (NGL) storage hub somewhere in the Marcellus/Utica region. In fact, progress is being made on two such facilities. Appalachia Development Group is leading an effort to get a $10 billion NGL (primarily ethane) storage hub established in Appalachia–most likely in West Virginia (see WV’s US Senators Lead the Charge to Build $10B NGL Storage Hub). Federal loan guarantees are in the works for that massive project and an engineering firm has been hired. Meanwhile, Mountaineer NGL Storage is planning a smaller facility in Monroe County, OH, located just across the river (and border) from West Virginia (see Final State Permits Expected Soon for OH Mountaineer NGL Storage). The Colorado company behind the Mountaineer NGL project plans to spend up to $500 million to build it. Some 20 drillers have expressed interest in contracting with the facility to store ethane, and the nearby PTT Global cracker plant project (if it gets built) and the under-construction Shell cracker plant are both interested in connections to the facility. But that may not be all! According to Katie Klaber, former president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and principal of The Klaber Group, “We may not end up seeing just one storage hub, but instead it will be some interconnected groups of pipelines and storage.” In other words, we may see even more such facilities. It certainly appears that major progress is being made on the two named projects…
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Local Leaders Get Ready for Belmont County, OH Cracker Plant

It sure feels like PTT Global Chemical, the Thailand-based petrochemical giant that says it wants to build an ethane cracker in Belmont County, OH, is getting close to making a positive final investment decision (FID). On Monday we told you that an Ohio State Representative, Andy Thompson, said such a decision will be forthcoming in “a month or so” (see PTT Decision on Ohio Cracker Announced in Next “Month or So”). We have more evidence of an impending decision. Recently two dozen local county officials, from both sides of the Ohio River, went on a field trip to Beaver County where Shell is building their $6 billion ethane cracker. The officials wanted to see, first-hand, how the project is impacting the local area. They got eyes- and earsful. They came back jazzed. Here’s our point: A horde of local officials doesn’t traipse around the countryside wasting time unless they are convinced the project is going to happen. From the language this group of officials is using, and their overall demeanor, we’d say the PTT Belmont cracker is a happening project…
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Sen. Pat Toomey Claims Trump Tariffs Will Delay Shell Cracker

US Sen. Pat Toomey

Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator Pat Toomey is a DC swamp dweller–let’s just be honest about it. He’s a Republican, largely in name only. He’s better than a Democrat–but not by much. Toomey is claiming that President Trump’s attempt to stop the flow of foreign steel dumping in our markets by using tariffs (dumping which hurts our own steel industry and isn’t anywhere close to being fair or free trade), will delay incoming material for the Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County and result in the layoff of “hundreds” of workers. A Shell spokesman neither confirms nor denies Toomey’s claims but uses doublespeak to sidestep the issue–meaning Shell likely asked Toomey to be the front guy in shaming the Trump Administration into granting waivers so they can get their cheap, imported steel. Toomey has been an early and repeat critic of Trump. Toomey opposed Trump’s tariffs from the beginning and is currently trying to get a new law passed stripping the President of his constitutional power to impose tariffs…
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PTT Decision on Ohio Cracker Announced in Next “Month or So”

Sometimes you spot an innocent, off-the-cuff remark that’s not really part of the intended story–but has huge meaning. Such was the case when we spotted a story quoting Ohio House of Representatives member Andy Thompson (Republican, 95th District covering Carroll, Harrison and Noble counties, and portions of Washington and Belmont counties). Thompson, who (to his credit) is not running for reelection after four terms, gave a speech at the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association last week in St. Clairsville. In his remarks, Thompson talked about the work of Shale Crescent USA, an economic development organization formed a few years ago to encourage business growth in the Ohio Valley based on low natural gas prices that allow manufacturers to operate more efficiently–with easy access to half the population of the United States and Canada. Although Thompson’s focus was not on the PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker project potentially planned for Belmont County, he had some VERY interesting remarks about that project and others like it…
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Can the Marcellus/Utica Build Too Many Cracker Plants?

The Marcellus/Utica region produces a prodigious volume of ethane, a “natural gas liquid” (NGL) that comes out of the ground along with methane. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because that ethane can be cracked (chemically) to produce ethylene–or raw plastics. It’s bad because we don’t have any crackers, currently, in our region–and just a small volume of our ethane travels via pipeline to the Gulf Coast or Canada for cracking. So right now ethane is a waste produce for most Marcellus/Utica drillers–something that costs money to dispose of. Shell is currently building a $6+ billion cracker in Monaca (Beaver County), PA, which will go online sometime after 2020. PTT Global Chemical is seriously considering, some say will finally commit, to building our region’s second cracker project in Belmont County, OH. At the Appalachian Storage Hub Conference held in Southpointe in June, an expert said we will see three more cracker plant projects announced within the next 12 months (see Industry Expert Says 3 More Crackers Coming to M-U). Exciting stuff! But, can there be too many crackers in the northeast? That’s the question asked in a recent E&E News report. Experts quoted in the article say that the Gulf Coast has too much of a head start on the northeast. Yet, a big part of the plastics market (the East Coast) is on our doorstep. States in our region take a heavier hand in regulating these plants than states along the Gulf Coast. Given these projects cost $5-$10 billion each to build, and the possibility that building one that doesn’t pan out would sink a company, it’s no wonder these decisions take years to make, and then more years to actually build the plant. Just how many crackers are too many? How much is too much of a good thing?…
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