A major new petrochemical complex could be built in eastern Ohio after a global chemical group selected a site in Belmont County for a potential multi-billion dollar investment, Governor John R. Kasich announced on Wednesday.

Petrochemical and refining company PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) of Thailand, together with its Japan-based partner Marubeni Corporation, will now spend the next 12 to 16 months completing detailed engineering design and permitting for an ethane cracker at the site.

The two companies are expected to make a final decision next year on whether to build the facility, which would convert ethane extracted from the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations into ethylene, a hydrocarbon gas used to make plastics and resins for items such as food and product packaging, textiles and pharmaceuticals.

"There is more work ahead before final decisions on this project are made, but I know our Ohio team will do everything we can to bring it fruition," Kasich said. "We are excited about the possibility of working with companies of the caliber of PTTGC Global and Marubeni. A project of this size can help lift the region forever."

An ethane cracker in Belmont would facilitate further investments in the growing shale and petrochemical industries, according to John Minor, president and chief investment officer of nonprofit group JobsOhio.

If the project goes ahead, construction of the plant is expected to take three-and-a-half years.