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One of Three Proposed Methanol Production Plants Stalled in Pacific Northwest

Multi-billion-dollar plans for a trio of methanol production plants in the Pacific Northwest have run into serious local opposition in Tacoma, WA, causing the China-based consortium proposing the network of export plants to suspend its efforts there.

In response to public concerns, Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW) said it has asked the City of Tacoma to pause the environmental review for its proposed methanol production plant and export facility. Just last year, NWIW added investors to the project, which is estimated to be a $3.4 billion endeavor (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2015).

NWIW touts its use of new clean technology, saying it offers Washington and Oregon the chance to become world leaders in addressing climate change and producing methanol and other products in a more environmentally responsible way.

"We have been surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma," NWIW said in a statement posted on its website, noting that "forcing" a facility on a local community doesn't fit with it goals. "Therefore, we have decided to pause the state Environmental Policy Act review process in Tacoma."

Separately last Friday, NWIW said it has selected a lead contractor, Technip USA Inc, to support the development of its proposed plant at the Port of Kalama in Washington along the Columbia River, the company's most advanced project. A draft environmental impact statement process for the project is slated for completion next month.

When the projected three-year construction begins -- now slated for 2017 -- Technip would oversee the building of the $1.8 billion facilities, creating up to 1,000 construction and 200 full-time jobs. Port of Kalama approved a lease agreement for NWIW in April 2014, and since then the companies have attempted to move forward on all three sites, including Kalama, Tacoma and Port St. Helens, in Clatsop County, OR.

The $1.8 billion proposed plant at Port of St. Helens is slated for an 83-acre site at Port Westward, but the timing of its local and state reviews is undetermined and assumed to be 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.

Since emerging more than two years ago and gaining federal environmental reviews of a critical gas supply pipeline (see Daily GPI, July 14, 2015; Jan. 27, 2014), NWIW has expanded its plans in Tacoma and added financial partners for all three processing plants.

Converting large quantities of natural gas into methanol for export to Asian markets carried with it significant economic and energy planning implications for the Pacific Northwest, where future gas demand is uncertain. For example, in Oregon annual industrial natural gas consumption fell at a trend-line rate of 2.3% per year over the 2002-2012 period.

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