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Keep PTT project on table

Daelim Chemical USA’s withdrawal from partnership in the proposal Belmont County ethane cracker plant came as stunning, disappointing news this week.

As we reported, Daelim executives have pulled out of a partnership with PTT Global Chemical USA to build the plant, near the Ohio River in southern Belmont County. The two firms have been partners since 2018.

In their joint announcement of the parting, Daelim executives called their decision “difficult but necessary.” Though the companies cited uncertainty due to the COVID-19 epidemic and volatility in oil prices, there is no way of the public knowing precisely what factors were considered by Daelim.

For their part, PTT officials emphasized the cracker plant “continues to be a top priority …” They added that they are “in the process of seeking a new partner” for the venture.

One interesting aspect of the announcement involves when PTT will make a final decision on whether to proceed. While stating Daelim’s action would cause a six- to nine-month delay, PTT officials said the decision should come late this year or early next year.

Previously, they had said a decision would be made in early 2021. In other words, though they warned of a delay, their timetable seems to have been altered little, if at all.

PTT reportedlly has plowed $200 million into the project thus far. That is a lot of investment to write off, though such action sometimes occurs in business and industry.

One promising factor is that work has resumed on the Shell Chemical cracker plant being built near Monaca, Pennsylvania, after a break due to COVID-19. Clearly, Shell executives still see a future in cracker plants.

PTT officials, like so many business and industry leaders, tend to hold their cards tight to the vest. Precisely what considerations are in their minds is not known outside the company. But various factors, including proximity to natural gas feedstocks, continue to make the Belmont County cracker sound attractive. Let us all cross our fingers — again — and hope PTT can find a new partner quickly.

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