This March 15, 2018 photo shows a natural gas drill rig in Belmont County, Ohio.
This March 15, 2018 photo shows a natural gas drill rig in Belmont County, Ohio. Residents in the eastern Ohio county and local and state officials are hoping to see an economic turnaround thanks to a cracker plant. [AP Photo | Paul Vernon]

Ohio Governor Meets with Proposed Belmont Co. ‘Cracker’ Plant Developer

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor met Wednesday with officials from one of the companies proposing to build a multi-billion dollar ethane “cracker”plant in southeast Ohio.

A spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine said no “substantive update” would be provided from the meeting in Columbus with board members from Thailand’s PTT Global Chemical.

State and local officials for nearly two years have anticipated an announcement about whether PTT in partnership with South Korea’s Daelim Industrial Co. would build the plant along the Ohio River in Belmont County.

Cracker plants convert ethane, a byproduct of natural gas drilling, into the raw material for plastic and other products used in everyday life. Royal Dutch Shell is building a similar plant about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Thousands of construction workers would be needed to build the plant in an unincorporated area of Belmont County called Dilles Bottom with hundreds then hired to operate it. The project is seen as an economic savior for an Appalachian region that has long struggled economically from the loss of jobs in steel, aluminum and glass manufacturing decades ago. The hope among state and local officials is that the plant will spur further development and revitalize the region.

PTT board members met Tuesday in Belmont County with locals officials and representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and JobsOhio, a private nonprofit corporation that supports economic growth in the state. No Daelim representatives were at that meeting or the one Wednesday with DeWine and Lt. Gov. John Husted.

Belmont County Port Authority Director Larry Merry said he was encouraged by Tuesday’s meeting and prospects that the plant will be built.

“They still have a strong interest,” Merry said of PTT. “There’s a process. A project of this size takes time.”