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Ohio Ethane Cracker Site Prep Partially Completed; Another Purchase Option Signed

FirstEnergy Corp. wrapped-up its clearing and demolition work last week in Belmont County, OH, at the 150-acre site of a former coal-fired power plant, finishing another step to ready part of the land that could one day be home to PTT Global Chemical pcl's (PTTGC) proposed ethane cracker.

In another development, FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young confirmed that PTTGC now has an option to purchase that property if it decides to go forward with constructing the cracker. Under the agreement, which was signed over the summer, Young said the company retains exclusive property acquisition rights while it's completing engineering studies associated with the project.  FirstEnergy would continue to own the property unless PTTGC elects to have it transferred.

FirstEnergy worked most of the year to demolish the Burger Power Plant on the Ohio River, which it retired in 2011. The company planned to clean up the site for a future project, but PTTGC's purchase option lends some clarity on what it could potentially be used for. PTTGC, the petrochemical and refining subsidiary of Thailand's state-owned oil and gas company, PTT pcl, said in September 2015 that it would invest $100 million for the facility's preliminary design work.

It also has signed a purchase option agreement for a roughly 300-acre site to the south of the former Burger plant. The cracker, which would utilize Marcellus and Utica shale ethane for conversion into ethylene and polyethylene for plastics, is expected to use about 500 acres. It's unclear how much more site preparation would be needed to ready all that land for construction if the company goes forward with the project. PTTGC spokesman Dan Williamson said in an email that the FirstEnergy plot is only part of the project site, but didn’t provide other details.

JobsOhio, the state's private economic development organization that has worked closely with PTTGC on the facility, on Tuesday awarded a $14 million grant for FirstEnergy to help offset the cost of its remediation work. The organization also provided $3 million last year to the owners of the Ohio-West Virginia Excavating Co. land to the south of the FirstEnergy site for cleanup work.

PTTGC has said it expects to make a final investment decision (FID) on the facility next year. In June, Royal Dutch Shell plc said it would build an ethane cracker on a 400-acre site in Western Pennsylvania. Odebrecht SA affiliate Braskem SA has put its plans for a similar facility in West Virginia on hold.

Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland said all indications are positive as PTTGC continues to work toward an FID, which he said is expected early next year. JobsOhio recently told local news media that it is close to making announcements about the facility, but stopped short of providing details.

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