Appalachian Town Must «Wait And Wait» As Pandemic Puts Plastics Plant On Hold

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A Thailand-based oil and gas company had offered to pay for a new school in Shadyside, Ohio. But with its local project now on hold, superintendent John Haswell says all he can do is «wait and wait.»

Reid Frazier/The Allegheny Front


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Reid Frazier/The Allegheny Front

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The site in Dilles Bottom, Ohio, where a large petrochemical plant is slated to be built. An investor pulled out in July citing the pandemic, but analysts also see a wider downturn for the industry.

Reid Frazier/The Allegheny Front


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Reid Frazier/The Allegheny Front

The site in Dilles Bottom, Ohio, where a large petrochemical plant is slated to be built. An investor pulled out in July citing the pandemic, but analysts also see a wider downturn for the industry.

Reid Frazier/The Allegheny Front

Kathy Hipple, an analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which works toward sustainable energy, says the pandemic has certainly hurt demand for petrochemical products.

But she points out that projects in West Virginia, Texas, and Pennsylvania have also been delayed or canceled in the past year. She thinks the PTT decision is part of a larger downward trend for the industry.

«We view this as a market signal that the project has possibly become far too risky for them to continue,» she says.

Steve Lewandowski, a petrochemical analyst at research firm IHS Markit, thinks newly-built plants on the Gulf Coast and in China are creating an oversupply of plastics. He believes demand will eventually rebound, but agrees that the Ohio project doesn’t make financial sense for now.

«If it was such a compelling case to build there, that cracker would have been approved, under construction, and then there probably would be another one on top of that,» he says. «And it’s not.»

Not everyone is sad to see the project on hold.

Amanda Petrucci lives just across the Ohio River in West Virginia. She says her family has suffered from health problems, and she worries they’re linked to a nearby Superfund site. The prospect of a new petrochemical plant nearby had made her consider moving, so the delay came as a relief.

«I feel like I can kind of, just, hang out here for a little bit longer and enjoy life here,» she says.

Like others, she’ll have to wait and see what happens with the plant, whose future — like so many things right now — is up in the air.

This story was a collaboration with StateImpact Pennsylvania.

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