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Giant Japanese shipping firm to invest in $2B Kalama methanol project
METHANOL PLANT

Giant Japanese shipping firm to invest in $2B Kalama methanol project

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One of the world’s largest shipping companies will invest in the $2 billion Kalama methanol project, which continues to undergo review of its potential impact on global climate change.

Northwest Innovation announced recently that Tokyo-Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (commonly called MOL) will invest in the project and will deliver methanol to market in cleaner “next-generation” ships.

NWIW declined to state the size of MOL’s investment, but “it is not insignificant,” said Kent Caputo, general counsel for NWIW.

“It’s really a partnership that is above and beyond just shipping” the methanol, Caputo said.

Tokyo-based MOL has been in business since the 19th century. Caputo said it has a fleet of 740 ships. MOL, Caputo said, is “really focused on methanol shipping and clean shipping” by moving away from traditional bunker fuel — a thick, residual petroleum product left after gas and oil refining — to ships that burn cleaner liquefied natural gas and even methanol itself.

NWIW says its plant will set a new standard of environmental performance in methanol production, and one reason for the partnership with MOL is that “we are like-minded” in wanting to use new, cleaner technology and practice good environmental stewardship, Caputo said.

NWIW wants to build the plant on land leased from the Port of Kalama.

It would convert natural gas into methanol for use in plastics manufacturing.

The company says the project would create 1,000 construction jobs and up to 200 permanent direct family-wage jobs, as well as providing $30 million to $40 million in annual tax payments paid to state and local governments. A county-port study concluded that the plant would have a large reduction in global greenhouse emissions by offsetting dirtier coal-based methanol production. NWIW also has pledged to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions at the plant site.

However, environmental groups say the project will drive up demand for natural gas through the controversial “fracking” method, and they’ve challenged the finding that the plant will offset other carbon emissions.

The state Department of Ecology is undertaking yet another assessment of the project’s carbon dioxide emissions. That study could make or break the project. Caputo said the study should be complete in October.

The plant would take about three years ago build once NWIW obtains all its permits, Caputo said. China-based Northwest Innovation first unveiled the project in January 2014.

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