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Northwest Methanol Plans Scaled Back to Two Plants

Multi-billion-dollar plans for three natural gas-consuming methanol plants in the Pacific Northwest were scaled back Tuesday to two plants as the largest proposed facility at Port of Tacoma, WA, was scrapped by the developer, a China-based consortium.

Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) officials said they were terminating their lease for a site on the tide flats with the port following the completion of a "careful review and evaluation" during a pause in the project's environmental review earlier this year (see Daily GPIFeb. 22).

NWIW President Vee Godley said the methanol plant developer is still committed to developing its other two proposed sites in the region: Port of Kalama in Washington along the Columbia River, and a second $1.8 billion proposed plant at Port of St. Helens on an 83-acre site at Port Westward, on the Oregon side of the river.

Godley thanked the Port of Tacoma, its business community and the city for their consideration of what was envisioned as a $3.4 billion endeavor (see Daily GPI,Dec. 21, 2015) at the outset of the permitting process last year.

NWIW’s decision to terminate the lease was centered on two principal business considerations, according to Godley:

  • The proposed site, a former location for a smelter, remains polluted despite tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent for remediation, so a lot of extra planning, research and regulatory work was needed; and
  • There was not enough time to fulfill the due diligence and environmental review process by the end of this month as specified in the lease agreement with the port.

"Given what we now know about the site and the process going forward, we estimate that we would need at least three more years of development activities to [complete] due diligence, public processes and environmental analysis," said Godley, who added that the pause in the project was initiated in February because of public concerns, and those concerns remain.

NWIW officials continued to be stymied by what they called "the tone and substance of the vocal opposition" that emerged surrounding the Tacoma project. But the company remains committed to developing the other two sites, Godley said.

Last month, authorities in the state of Washington released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the proposed $1.8 billion methanol production facility at Port of Kalama along the Columbia River. Public comments were taken on the DEIS through Monday (see Daily GPIMarch 10).

Earlier this year, NWIW selected a lead contractor, Technip USA Inc, to support the development of the Port of Kalama plant. When the projected three-year construction begins -- now slated for 2017 -- Technip would oversee the building of the facilities, creating up to 1,000 construction and 200 full-time jobs. Port of Kalama approved a lease agreement for NWIW in April 2014.

The timing of the similar sized project at Port St. Helens for local and state reviews is lagging behind the Port of Kalama project schedule.

NWIW was created by China-based Clean Energy Commercialization Co., partnering with units of Double Green Bridge and the Chinese Academy of Science Holding Co., along with private investors in H&Q Asia Pacific. NWIW is owned by Chinese management company Shanghai Bi Ke Clean Technology Co. Ltd.

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