An ethane cracker in Port Arthur, Texas
The Ohio EPA began 2017 by granting PTT Global Chemical a water permit
that will allow the company to discharge wastewater from a massive ethane cracker into the Ohio River.
The cracker, a proposed industrial complex covering hundreds of acres just south of Wheeling, W.V., would convert ethane into ethylene (for use in plastics manufacturing). Ethane is a component of the natural gas that's found throughout the heavily drilled Marcellus and Utica shale plays in southern Ohio and West Virginia. Total investment costs for the facility hover around the $5.7-billion mark.
A final decision on the project from the Thailand-base company and the state of Ohio is anticipated in March. Until then, the permitting process continues apace.
"Permitted discharges may result in changes from current water quality conditions, but cannot violate Ohio’s water quality standards that protect human health and the environment," according to the Ohio EPA. As a spokesperson explained during a public meeting last fall, trace amounts of polyethylene and ethylene will be inevitable in the wastewater discharge.
The agency is currently considering air permit applications that seek to allow associated air pollutants. The Wheeling News-Register lists a number of airborne chemicals
that would be discharged from the ethane cracker: "nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, carbon dioxide equivalents, xylene and benzene."
Shell is moving forward with its own ethane cracker
in nearby Beaver County, Pennsylvania.
In our 2015 feature on the Marcellus and Utica drilling boom, Scene
learned that "downstream" industry — the production of more refined petrochemicals — is the next step in the natural gas world. Ohio finds itself in the heart of it all.