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Aiming for zero

PTTGCA hopes to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions

DILLES BOTTOM — The company that hopes to build an ethane cracker plant in Belmont County set a new goal for itself — it aims to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions across its corporate portfolio to zero by 2050.

PTT Global Chemical America is the U.S. subsidiary of GC Group, a Thailand-based firm that has a reputation for being environmentally responsible.

GC was rated No. 1 in the Dow Jones sustainability indices chemical sector for two consecutive years, and it has made headlines with its recycling efforts and circular manufacturing processes.

Since 2015, PTTGCA has been exploring the development of a petrochemical complex at the site of the former FirstEnergy R.E. Burger coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River at Dilles Bottom. If it becomes a reality, the project could create thousands of temporary construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions within the plant. Former governor John Kasich has said the effort represents a $10 billion investment in the region.

Plans for the facility state that six natural gas-fired furnaces will be used to heat ethane, a “wet” component of the local natural gas stream, to the point where its molecules “crack,” meaning that their chemical bonds break apart.

The resulting product will be used as feedstock to manufacture plastics and chemical products.

According to PTTGCA spokesman Dan Williamson, the net zero goal will now factor into those plans. For example, he said GC is exploring new possibilities in carbon capture and storage technologies that will be used in the local project if a final investment decision is reached.

Other innovative technologies the company is looking at include environmentally friendly coatings, biofuels, biochemicals and bioplastics as well as circularity concepts aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and plastic waste.

“We know there are technologies that will exist in the years to come that will allow projects such as this one to reduce their impact on the environment,” Williamson said.

Williamson said GC is aligned with the Paris Agreement and will start making changes today that will help it reach this “ambitious goal” within 30 years.

“In the U.S., I think we are not used to companies talking about these things,” he added. “If this project moves forward it will be constructed, designed and operated in a way that is consistent with this goal. …

“All manufacturing needs to get greener,” he continued. “We know we need to protect the environment, but we also know we are still going to need things and materials.”

He cited the changes in the electric car market over the past five years as an example of how new technology affects manufacturing and consumer behavior. While electric cars were uncommon five years ago, today they are fairly common, especially in metropolitan areas. Five years from now, Williamson believes they will be everywhere.

“If a project of this magnitude comes to the Ohio River Valley, people are going to want to know what kind of a company is going to build it,” Williamson said of the proposed cracker. “This (commitment to sustainability) answers that question. It shows the company’s character and priorities.”

Williamson said the announcement shows confidence that the company will continue to prosper and that GC and its subsidiaries “embrace the future and all that it entails.” He also speculated that the net zero goal could help attract an investment partner that realizes PTTGCA is equipped to adapt to the realities of manufacturing for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

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