by Rick Stouffer
Freelance Journalist Specializing in Energy Topics
Two of the largest construction projects in Pennsylvania and Ohio in decades at the moment are taking different paths working through the coronavirus impact.
Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals continues to ramp up work and workers at its massive ethane cracker project in Beaver County Pennsylvania.
Roughly 80 miles to the southwest, the CEO of the proposed cracker in southeast Ohio revealed in a Thai publication, his company’s cracker’s final investment decision once again has been postponed.
Shell’s cracker project in Beaver County is now hosting roughly 17.5% of its 8,000-person workforce onsite prior to shutting down in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning the week of May 4, the construction site brought another roughly 300 additional workers back to work, bringing the total number of employees onsite to approximately 800. In the two weeks since, including the current week, another 600 personnel have joined the roster.
Roughly 300 former onsite workers are returning each week going forward, provided safety protocols Shell, its project general superintendent Bechtel, and all subcontractors continue to be effective, according to Shell spokesman Michael Marr.
“The site continues to employ established procedures to keep workers safe, including temperature screening before coming onsite and lunchroom protocols that allow workers to maintain social distancing by limiting one worker per table,” Marr said.
In Ohio, petrochemical giant PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) once again postponed the final investment decision concerning its ethane cracker complex until 2021.
Company CEO Kongkrapan Intarajang said May 19, the company will review its short and long-term investment plans worldwide in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, the publication “The Nation Thailand” reported May 20.
That review includes moving the FID for the Ohio cracker to some time next year.
PTTGC reportedly has spent roughly $100 million on site preparation and engineering studies, with site preparation basically completed this past February.
The massive $5-$6 billion project was first made public in April 2015, when then-Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich announced PTTGC America had selected a site in Belmont County for the possible construction of a world-scale petrochemical complex.
As envisioned, the cracker complex would be located on the 500-acre site of a now-razed coal-fired power plant. It’s estimated the project would take roughly five years to construct.
The plant, if built, annually would produce 1.5 million tons of ethylene from ethane produced like its sister complex in Pennsylvania from the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays. From the ethylene another 1.6 million tons annually of high-quality polyethylene and linear low-density polyethylene would be produced.
The proposed multi-billion-dollar complex will also include on-site railcar and truck loading, supporting utilities, infrastructure, storage tanks, logistics facilities, and installations for either production or provision of required natural gas, water, air, nitrogen, steam, and electricity to support operation of processing units.
PTT Global Chemical America is a subsidiary of PTT Global Chemical, Thailand’s largest integrated petrochemical company. In 2018, South Korea-based Daelim Chemical’s Daelim Chemical USA announced it was partnering with PTTGC on the Ohio cracker.
However, the final investment decision, or FID, has been pushed back no fewer than four times. In late April of this year, PTTGC said due to the coronavirus it was indefinitely postponing the FID from announcing a decision by June 30 of this year.
CEO Intarajang said May 19, the company will revisit projects worldwide it still has to make a final decision on, adding that the new resolutions will be based on the production cost of the projects as well as the change in product demands in response to the economy in the post-Covid era, “The National Thailand” reported.