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Northwest Port Site Draws NatGas Project Focus

A vacant industrial strip in the Port of Tacoma, WA, called the Tideflats has become a magnet for some natural gas projects involving marine transportation and methanol production. The port's board of commissioners approved a lease for the first project last Thursday, a methanol plant.

Also in various stages of development are proposals for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) marine transportation fueling depot and a still-to-be-defined natural gas facility on some of the nonport-controlled, privately held land in the 5,000-acre industrial area.

A port spokesperson told NGI on Tuesday that the 100-year-old industrial area south of Seattle is into a third phase focused on marine commerce after being a logging/fishing center in the first half of the 20th Century and a heavy industry/shipbuilding center during the latter half.

A global multi-national partnership, NW Innovation Works, won a port lease for developing a new methanol production plant for shipping its output to Asia. The Tacoma site is one of three locations in the Pacific Northwest being pursued with similar proposals in the works for sites at Port Westward, OR, and Port Kalama, WA (see Daily GPI,Jan. 27). Each would contain $1.8 billion production facilities.

The Tacoma site is where Kaiser Aluminum once operated a large, energy-intensive smelting plant that was closed more than two decades ago. The NW Innovation lease covers 90 acres of the old site.

Plans for twin gas-fueled methanol plants in the lower Columbia River region were unveiled in January with the hope of exporting production to China by 2018 (see Daily GPI,Jan. 23).

Northwest Innovation is a venture created by China-based Clean Energy Commercialization Co., in turn a partnership of BP and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along with a Silicon Valley-based private equity investment firm, H&Q Asia Pacific.

Meanwhile, the Tacoma port is also expecting to get a lease request for the LNG marine fueling facility as a result of negotiations between Bellevue, WA-based Puget Sound Energy and Totem Ocean Trailer Express, which operates two trailerships between Tacoma and Anchorage, AK.

The port spokesperson said the confidential talks between Puget and Totem are an "open secret" these days. There are no details on the station plans or the gas supply infrastructure needed for the project, however.

A third project surfaced in local news media this month based on a San Francisco energy consulting firm contacting local and state elected officials to get their reactions to another gas project in the area. A major oil/gas company is reportedly considering some sort of LNG and gas distribution facility on nonport-controlled acreage.

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