Department of Ecology News Release - September 2, 2020

New analysis offers clearer picture of greenhouse gas emissions from Kalama methanol facility

Report finds project would increase in-state emissions, but could replace dirtier sources globally


A preliminary analysis conducted by the Washington Department of Ecology found that a methanol facility proposed at the Port of Kalama would increase greenhouse gases in Washington state, but could substitute for dirtier sources of methanol globally.

Ecology began the new analysis after determining a previous Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) conducted by Cowlitz County and the Port of Kalama did not fully account for the greenhouse gas emissions from the facility. The additional analysis provides the necessary information for Ecology to evaluate whether the environmental mitigation measures proposed by Northwest Innovation Works are sufficient before making a final decision on a shoreline permit.

The public can review the draft second Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Ecology and provide comments through Oct. 2. Ecology will hold online hearings Sept. 17 and Sept. 22 to give the public an opportunity to learn about and comment on the findings of the report.

Report analyses

Ecology contracted with TRC, a consulting firm experienced in complex environmental analyses, to independently review how the additional methanol produced in Kalama would impact global markets for methanol. The analysis also looked at:

  • impacts from upstream emissions, like the greenhouse gases that escape from natural gas wells and pipelines,
  • direct and indirect emissions produced at the facility,
  • downstream emissions from transporting the methanol to its intended destination in China,
  • and how the product will ultimately be used.

Preliminary report findings

  • The project would increase greenhouse gas emissions within Washington state by almost one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year. The Kalama facility would be one of the 10 largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Northwest Innovation Works has said that it will mitigate all of the facility’s in-state emissions.  
  • Worldwide demand for methanol is likely to increase in the decades ahead, leading to higher greenhouse gas emissions with or without the Kalama facility.
  • It would lead to methanol being burned as a fuel. Northwest Innovation Works has said all of the methanol from the Kalama facility will be used in plastics production, but increasing methanol supply makes it more likely that more methanol will be used as fuel, regardless of the source.
  • Extracting and transporting the natural gas used to make the methanol could produce higher emissions than previous estimates.
  • Methanol made in Kalama could produce lower greenhouse gas emissions than many competing methanol supplies, from coal or less efficient natural gas sources. This means that global greenhouse gas emissions would increase with the addition of the Kalama facility, but likely less than they might if that demand was met by other sources.

Next steps

This more detailed picture of the emissions from the Kalama facility may influence the mitigation measures needed to address the facility’s environmental impacts. Once the public comment period ends, Ecology will use that feedback to finalize the SSEIS and then decide whether to approve a shoreline conditional use permit for the facility.

Read the report

Public input and hearings

Ecology will accept public comment on the draft SSEIS through Oct. 2, 2020. There are three ways to submit comments:

  • Online – Kalama SSEIS e-comments
  • Mail
    • Attn: Rich Doenges
      Washington Department of Ecology
      PO Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600
  • Public hearings
    • 1 p.m. Sept. 17 – Register to attend
    • 10 a.m. Sept. 22 – Register to attend
    • 6 p.m. Sept. 22 – Register to attend

Contact information

Jeff Zenk
Twitter: ecologywa