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Chinese-backed firm halts plans for methanol plant in Washington State

HOUSTON, February 22, 2016 (PCW) –- Northwest Innovations Works said late Friday it is putting on hold its plans for a methanol plant in Washington State due to vehement community opposition, possibly placing in jeopardy the company’s plans to export up to 14 million mt/yr (30.8 billion lb/yr) of methanol from the US West Coast to Asia.

The company, said it had asked the city of Tacoma, the location of its proposed first methanol plant in the Pacific Northwest, to “pause” the environmental review of its plant.

Northwest Innovation Works is owned by Shanghai Bi Ke Clean Energy Technology, which is a joint venture between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and investor group Double Green Bridge Hong Kong.

“We have been surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma. To force a facility on a community that does not welcome it would not be consistent with our goals,” the company said.

Northwest Innovation Works said it would use the next few months to “engage the Tacoma community in further dialogue.”

The company has three methanol plants planned at the ports of Kalama and Tacoma in Washington State and the port of St Helens in Oregon. The Kalama project is in the permitting stage with a production capacity of 365,000 mt/yr (800 million lb/yr). The $1.8 billion project is expected to begin construction later this year and could be operational in 2019.

The Tacoma plant, however, has the largest budget at $3.4 billion and had the largest proposed capacity at 7.3 million mt/yr (16 billion lb/yr). Construction had been scheduled to begin in late 2017 with in-service targeted for 2021.

The methanol produced was expected to be exported to Asia for use in new methanol-to-olefins facilities. Northwest Innovation Works has methanol supply agreements with Xizhong Island Petrochemical Park in Dalian, China. –- Samantha Hartke

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