Letter: Port Westward methanol proposal falls short of 'green' label
North West Innovation Works that is backing the proposed methanol plant at Port Westward claims they are a "green" industry. But what is considered "green" by the methanol industry standards does not fit with NWIW.
Most methanol is produced from natural gas and coal, such as NWIW is proposing; nothing green here. But renewable methanol — green methanol — does exist in form of biogas or biomass gasification. Through a power-to-gas process based on renewable hydrogen and carbon dioxide synthesis fix carbon emissions from related industry. NWIW does not fit into this category.
Green methanol can be produced in various ways and is thus CO2-neutral from well-to-wheel. Green methanol can be produced from bio-mass or the biodegradable part of garbage, such as wood waste. Another way to produce green methanol is from the extra sustainable wind power, which is contained in a liquid form in methanol and converted into energy. This method is called "green methanol synthesis."
Renewable facilities exist in Iceland (carbon recycling), The Netherlands (methanol from biomass) Sweden (methanol from forest waste), and via the company Enerkem (methanol from municipal solid waste, or garbage).
Canada has seen the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and has invested in new and green technologies. Enerkem is the company behind the new green technology. With Canada investment, Enerkem is helping to increase Edmonton's waste diversion rate from 50 to 90 percent. As part of a 25-year contract, the city will supply the plant with 100,000 tons of waste a year, and through the process it will create 38 million liters of biofuel with the waste. This new technology is outstanding because it will divert waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
At this time Canada is exporting green methanol to China, methanol which is made from household garbage from a facility built by Enerkem. The company can even convert old carpet and other non-recyclable trash into ethanol that refineries can add to gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Enerkem and Sinobioway, which is based in Beijing, announced a partnership in January. They plan to build more than 100 Enerkem facilities across China over the next 17 years. The investment was led by Blackrock, which is the largest asset manager in the world.
The one drawback to any of these plants which produce methanol or ethanol is that they use approximately a million gallons of water a day. But there is also a green solution approach to this problem as well. These plants have come up with re-using waste water from treatment facilities. We have the property; we have access to water treatment facilities such as Portland, who has 2,256 miles of wastewater pipes and a 140-acre treatment plant and can process 450 million gallons per day.
Why not build a huge aboveground pipeline from Portland's "Big Dig" and transport it to an Enerkem facility on Port of St. Helens property in St. Helens? Yes, it would be costly, but it would create jobs and keep wastewater from Portland spilling into the Columbia River intermittently. We could add wastewater of our own as well.
We have had decades of cheap, dirty industry and are now suffering the consequences with climate change, dirty air and contaminated water. We need to step up and pay the piper and embrace new technologies and do what we need to do to clean up after ourselves as we go, instead of leaving a mess for future generations to live in.
Now, why would the Port and Columbia County invest and promote old dirty fossil fuel technology offered by NWIW, when there are new green alternatives? Why would China need methanol from NWIW at Port Westward when, in a few years, they will have 100 of their own operating plants? While Enerkem is looking for sites to build in the U.S., why doesn't the Port investigate the possibility of siting them here? Even maybe partnering with other counties in Oregon/Washington to collect garbage for processing?
Reduce the need for more landfills. We have nothing to lose but everything to gain.