Port of Tacoma commissioners today approved a lease for a $1.8 billion plant that would convert natural gas to methanol for export to Asia. Northwest Innovation Works, a joint venture that includes Chinese companies, proposes building it on the site of the former Kaiser Aluminum site.
After permitting and environmental and other studies, the plant is slated to create as many as 1,000 construction jobs and about 200 permanent operating jobs. Terms of the lease were not immediately disclosed.
Methanol produced by natural gas would provide feedstocks to produce olefin, an ingredient in common plastics. Now China depends on coal to make methanol. Natural gas produces less greenhouse emissions. It would be delivered to the Tacoma plant by pipeline and transported to Asia by ship.
In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “I’m proud to see the Port of Tacoma and NW Innovation Works reaching another milestone for our state’s clean energy future. Washington state is working to turn the global challenge of carbon pollution into new jobs and strong communities. This project at the former Kaiser site will boost our regional economy while eventually providing a needed supply of clean methanol to Asia.”
Northwest Innovation Works is a joint venture including the Chinese Academy of Science and BP, as well as the H&Q Asia Pacific, a Silicon Valley private equity outfit. It is pursuing similar operations at Port Westward in Clatskanie, Ore., and the Port of Kalama in Washington.