Methanol on the Columbia

A Chinese-backed venture that includes the British petroleum company BP, called NW Innovation Works plans a $3.6 billion project involving two methanol export plants. The two methanol export plants would be built at the Port of Kalama (below) and Port Westward near Clatskanie.

Cowlitz Economic Development Council President Ted Sprague said Wednesday that is just what Cowlitz County economic leaders have been trying to secure for years: It provides long-term employment and it’s environmentally sound, not just for the region but globally. The two plants along the lower Columbia River would distill methanol from natural gas for use in making plastics and rubber. Each plant would cost $1+ billion and employ about 120 people.

It would be the biggest jobs boost for the region in about 20 years, reports Longview’s Daily News.

At the Port of Kalama, officials at the company, Northwest Innovation Works, want to lease a vacant site north of Steelscape for one of the manufacturing facilities. It also would require a natural gas pipeline to supply the plant.


Northwest Innovation Works, a joint venture between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and BP may create 2,000 construction jobs during the two-year building period, according to local economic development officials. The company hopes both plants will go online in 2017 or 2018.

The plants would get natural gas by pipeline and ship methanol to China for processing into consumer products from laptops to water bottles, said Greg Peden, a partner at Gallatin Public Affairs, a Portland firm representing the venture.

The group said the plant would be totally enclosed. The manufacturing facilities would connect to underground natural gas pipelines, then travel through a closed pipeline to bulk liquid carrier vessels.

Methanol is predominantly produced by natural gas to create a synthesis gas. This process then produces methanol and water vapor. Benefits include relatively low production cost and a lower risk of flammability compared to gasoline.

Methanol is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid. At room temperature, it is a liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol. Methanol is useful as an energy carrier, according to Wikipedia. It is easier to store than hydrogen, burns cleaner than fossil fuels, and is biodegradable.

The natural gas comes in by pipeline, the liquid Methanol is exported to China by ocean-going barge. It would have no effect on railroad congestion nor would it increase barge traffic through locks or bridges on the upper Columbia.

The City of Clatskanie, Clatskanie Chief Newspaper, the Longview Daily News, Bellingham Herald, and Save Port Westward have more.

Port Westward, near the City of Clatskanie, could be getting relatively crowded with 3 export facilities; the liquid Methanol export run by Northwest Innovation Works, oil exports run by Global Partners, and coal exports run by Amber Energy. In addition the area houses a PGE electricity generating plant, with turbines fueled by natural gas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s