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Associated Press:

The U.S. subsidiary of Thailand-based petrochemical giant PTT Global Chemical has repaid Ohio’s private economic development office $20 million after it failed to make an investment decision in 2020 on a proposed petrochemical plant in the state.

Spokespersons for both PTT Global Chemical America and JobsOhio said this week the company remains committed to building the multi-billion dollar project in southeast Ohio’s Belmont County as PTTGCA continues searching for an investment partner.

The $20 million was paid to Bechtel Corp. in 2019 to complete site engineering and site preparation for a plant that would convert ethane — a byproduct of natural gas drilling from the Utica and Marcellus shale fields — into different types of polyethylene, raw materials for products that range from plastic bottles to vehicle parts.

The project has been optimistically viewed as a potential economic development boost for an Appalachian region still struggling from the loss of manufacturing jobs decades ago. The plant, its backers say, would create thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent positions and spawn a manufacturing renaissance along the Ohio River.

A similar $6 billion petrochemical plant built by Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Pittsburgh is scheduled to begin operations this year. Shell announced its final investment decision in 2016. News that PTTGC would partner with a Japanese company to build a petrochemical plant in Belmont County first surfaced in 2015, spurring talk of a regional petrochemical hub to take advantage of abundant supplies of ethane.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted expressed skepticism about whether the Ohio plant would be built.

“They can’t find a partner because of market conditions,” Husted said. “They’re the ones who made the promise on what they’re going to do, and it’s up to them.”

[Mark Gillispie]

More: Firm pays back $20M, insists petrochemical project viable

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