Just Released: New Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Kalama Methanol Refinery

On Wednesday, September 2, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) released a new Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to address the climate impacts of the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery, proposed in Kalama, WA.

Ecology’s new analysis reveals what the project’s backers have long denied: that the refinery would cause more methanol to be burned as fuel in China and result in significant methane pollution from fracking. The methanol refinery would quickly become one of Washington’s most significant sources of climate-changing pollution and use more fracked gas than all of Washington’s gas-fired power plants, combined.

Unfortunately, Ecology’s study also relies on speculative mitigation and an unenforceable market analysis to prop up this dirty, climate-wrecking proposal.

 

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What is the Kalama Methanol Refinery project?

  • The fracked gas industry wants to build the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery in Kalama, WA. The proposed refinery would consume a staggering amount of fracked gas, more than all of Washington’s gas-fired power plants combined. The project would convert the fracked gas to methanol, which would be shipped overseas to be burned as fuel or used as feedstock to make plastics. Washington’s Dept. of Ecology is releasing a new supplemental environmental impact statement that evaluates the greenhouse gas pollution of Northwest Innovation Works’ (NWIW) proposed refinery and pipeline. Now, you have an important chance to weigh in. 
  • The climate consequences of the Kalama methanol refinery are enormous. Reports from the Stockholm Environment Institute and Sightline Institute show that Kalama methanol refinery would contribute to a significant global increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The project would generate millions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year, undercutting Washington’s efforts to move towards a clean energy economy.
  • Governor Inslee publicly opposed the Kalama methanol refinery in May 2019, stating, “The accelerating threat of climate change and the emerging science on the damaging impacts of natural gas production and distribution mean we must focus our full efforts on developing clean, renewable and fossil-fuel free energy sources.”
  • The Kalama project will drive fracking and methane pollution. Because of its enormous demand for fracked gas, NWIW’s proposed methanol refinery in Kalama would be responsible for driving increases in fracking and the methane pollution that fracking causes. Because methane escapes during the fracking process, this “upstream” pollution will exceed one million tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year using even the most conservative estimates of methane leakage.
  • Combustion of methanol from the Kalama project will lead to a large “downstream” source of greenhouse gas pollution. Although NWIW tried for years to claim that no one would ever burn the methanol it produced, it is reasonable to assume that all or some of the methanol from the NWIW project would be combusted. The combustion of all of the methanol produced in Kalama would generate up to 5 million tons of additional greenhouse gas pollution each year.

Why is there a new supplemental EIS?

  • NWIW attempted to mislead regulators about the purpose and impact of the methanol refinery. For years, NWIW claimed that it would produce millions of tons of methanol each year without the methanol ever being combusted as a fuel. In 2019, reporting from OPB exposed how NWIW had touted the potential use of methanol for fuel to potential investors, directly contradicting claims that NWIW had made to local and state regulators. NWIW also attempted to low-ball the amount of methane pollution that would occur as a result of fracking and fracked gas transport driven by the methanol project. Combusting the methanol from the NWIW facility would add an additional 5 million tons of GHG pollution each year, a fact that NWIW tried to hide in previous environmental reviews. 
  • In November 2019, the Wash. Dept. of Ecology concluded that the previous environmental analyses were too incomplete and inaccurate to make a final decision on the NWIW project. Accordingly, Wash. Dept. of Ecology concluded that it needed to produce its own analysis, a new SEIS. We will be urging Ecology to use better assumptions and to draw more realistic conclusions about the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery.