Kalama Methanol Plant Offers Strong Prospects for Net Global Greenhouse Gas Reduction Benefits

Analysis published by the Low Carbon Prosperity Institute shows new industrial facilities can play an important role in a low-carbon future.

Independent analysis published by the Low Carbon Prosperity Institute (LCPI) finds compelling evidence that the most likely outcome from production of methanol at the Kalama Methanol Manufacturing and Marine Export Facility (KMMEF) is a net global greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction benefit in the short, medium, and long-term.

The new analysis examines various scenarios of life-cycle GHG emissions attributable to KMMEF methanol production, and the range of net global GHG change likely to result from methanol or other end-use product displacement.

“Natural gas-based methanol produced at the facility is highly likely to displace coal-based methanol production elsewhere, providing a net annual reduction of 2.3 to 7.2 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide through at least 2030, assuming full production capacity,” said Kevin Tempest, R&D Scientist at the LCPI, who served as lead author of the report.

The analysis applied sensitivities to evaluate the range of GHG emissions from supply chain methane leakage in addition to power demand, the combustion of natural gas at the facility, and voluntary mitigation activities.

“While the margin of success narrows under a scenario of pipeline leakage exceeding the expected supply stream, the project is still likely to result in net GHG reduction because of significant elimination of much more carbon intensive coal-based methanol in the marketplace,” added Tempest. “This highlights the importance of working towards and improving industry best practice of low methane leakage sources of natural gas, while keeping the door open over the long-term for carbon-capture and biogas feedstock approaches. The voluntary mitigation of around one million tons of GHGs per year can make a very material difference if done with the highest quality approaches.”

A “Win-Win” for Washington
David Giuliani, LCPI’s Co-Founder and Chief Engineer, believes data-based analysis is key to guiding society to a low carbon future.

“This type of project may not be carbon-free, but its lower carbon attributes are attractive and demonstrate alignment with deep decarbonization globally,” said Giuliani. “Ultimately, Washington's greatest impact on emissions will come from the export of clean products and innovative technologies. The Kalama facility appears to be a win-win, providing economic benefits to a rural community and contributing to a lower carbon future.”

According to industry analyst Jan Thijssen, “The methanol plant as planned appears to be state-of-the-art in terms of efficiency, so compared with any other fossil-based methanol production in the world (basically 100% of current methanol production), GHG emissions from this plant should likely be better.”

The analysis suggests that new industrial facilities can have a strong role to play in a low-carbon future so long as two major factors are in place: (1) The feedstock displaced is primarily coal; and (2) much lower GHG pathways are unlikely to provide a substantial market share over the lifetime of the facility AND the facility cannot reasonably convert to at least match emissions intensities of those lower GHG pathways. Tempest argues that “in both cases, KMMEF appears likely to meet those criteria.”

Source: Low Carbon Prosperity Institute
Date: Dec 14, 2018