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A decision about building a petrochemical plant in Ohio, 65 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, has been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. After five years of consideration, PTT-Global Chemical America, based in Thailand, and its South Korean partner Daelim Chemical, had expected to make a final investment decision this summer. In a statement, the companies now say they are unable to promise a firm timeline, but it remains a “top priority.” 

Like Shell’s plant under construction in Beaver County, Pa., the facility would use ethane, abundant in the region from fracking in the Marcellus and Utica shale, to make ethylene and polyethylene, the building blocks of many plastic products.

The first phase of site preparation and engineering work has been completed at the site, along the Ohio River, and the companies say they are continuing to invest in demolition of vacant structures in the surrounding neighborhood. The local community recently approved tax incentives the companies sought, and the private JobsOhio group has invested $70 million to develop the project. 

Even before the pandemic hit and the global economy cratered, two separate financial analyses agreed that the project could be in trouble. The wide scale push against single-use plastics, low prices and an oversupply of polyethylene were all seen as signs of difficulty for plastics production. Now, with world oil prices in a recent uncharted slide, the petrochemical industry is facing uncertain times. 

The companies say they will continue to work as quickly as they can toward a final decision on the project. 

Why Some Financial Analysts are Questioning Viability of Appalachian Plastics Hub