Building the bridge to a stronger regional economy, cleaner global environment.
The Pacific Northwest has a rich history of growing jobs and a robust economy from its abundant natural resources. Over the years, the region has lead the way in the sustainable use of those resources and in its early and strong commitment to reducing carbon emissions and combating global climate change.
Today, the region has an opportunity to build upon that proud heritage.
NW Innovation Works, LLC, is studying multiple sites in Washington and Oregon to locate facilities that will manufacture methanol from natural gas. This product will be exported to Asia, including China, where it will supplant oil and coal currently used to produce a range of plastics and materials contained in our most common household and industrial goods. NW Innovation Works will create new jobs and renew a clean, value-added manufacturing economy in the Northwest and – at the same time – help China to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions generated by the country’s reliance on coal and oil for industrial applications.
NW Innovation Works will invest $1 billion in each phase of its facility development and generate up to 1,000 construction jobs during a multi-year build out. Once operational, our facilities will provide hundreds of permanent, family wage jobs and supply millions of dollars each year in payroll, tax revenue and new economic activity.
The Pacific Northwest has a unique advantage of being the bridge linking the United States with the growing Asian marketplace. NW Innovation Works intends to build a “Double Green Bridge” for stronger economies and a healthier planet.
Who We Are
Multi-national partnership meeting global needs
Major investors in NW Innovation Works, LLC include PPE, Joint Venture between CECC and Dalian Xizhong Island Petrochemical Park, and H&Q Asia Pacific.
CECC (Shanghai Bi Ke Clean Energy Technology Co., Ltd.), a Joint Venture between Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) and BP, is a technology commercialization and project development company with a distinctive portfolio of technologies and projects that plays into the growing gas and syngas to chemicals and fuels markets.
Dalian Xizhoug Island Petrochemical Park is one of seven key national level petrochemical parks in China and located at Bohai Bay in Northern China. The park is located on a 96 km2 island and has plans for 40 million ton per year refinery, 10 million ton per year (6mt olefin and 5mt aromatics) petrochemical industries.
H&Q AP is a Silicon Valley-based private equity firm and leading investor in the Asia Pacific Region. It has managed $3.5 billion in committed capital since its inception in 1985. H&Q Asia Pacific maintains six offices and employs 40 investment professionals in Asia and the U.S. The company has strong ties with Intel and IBM and has guided many well-known consumer-branded companies in Asia, including Starbucks, Acer and giant semi-conductor foundry TSMC.
A March 2013 global market study by IHS Chemical finds demand for methanol growing faster in China than the rest of the world at 12 percent annually. Chinese end users, including the Xizhoung Island Petrochemical Park in Dalian, China, have already signed agreements committing to NW Innovation Works projects. In addition, construction is already underway to build storage facilities to hold methanol that will be produced by NW Innovation Works facilities.
NW Innovation Works project leaders include:
Simon ZhangCEO, Northwest Innovation Works, LLC
Prior to joining the Northwest Innovation Works development team, Simon Zhang held a number of leadership roles at BP including Solar Global VP, Strategic Alliances, Chief of Staff of BP Global Chemicals and deputy CFO of BP-Sinopec Retail JV in Zhejiang, China. Mr. Zhang received Chemical engineering degrees from Tsinghua (BS), Purdue (MS) and Wisconsin (PhD) and an MBA from Chicago. He also holds a CFA.
Mark HsuManaging Director, H&Q Pacific
Mark Hsu joined H&Q Asia Pacific in 2001 and is a member of the firm’s regional private equity team. Prior to joining H&Q AP, Mr. Hsu was Director of Business Development for Sina.com, where lead the development of commercial and strategic relationships with leading Internet, media, telecommunications and consumer retail companies. From 1997 to 1999, Mr. Hsu was an attorney with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where he focused on securities and M&A transactions in the private equity and hedge fund sectors, principally working with The Blackstone Group. Mr. Hsu received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and his Juris Doctor from Columbia University.
Murray V. (Vee) GodleyPresident, Northwest Innovation Works, LLC
Vee Godley will be the Northwest-based executive for NW Innovation Works. He has more than 30 years of project development and project management experience. Most recently, Mr. Godley served as Senior Site Manager for Industrial Piping, Inc. Previously he held a variety of leadership positions at Sanders Bros, Inc., a capital construction company serving industry from southern Virginia to Mississippi. He studied electrical engineering at Beaufort County Community college and physics at North Carolina State University.
Joe SmithVice President, Northwest Innovation Works, LLC
Joe Smith has served as a project manager or developer for many chemical projects in the United States, including facilities located in Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Pennsylvania. He brings more than 25 years’ experience in the chemical industry.
Brian LittleOregon Development Consultant
Brian Little served city administrator for the City of St. Helens from June 1994 to his retirement in June 2007. Mr. Little’s responsibilities included oversight of the court, licensing, finance, personnel, computer technology, communications, economic development and employee training. He also coordinated activities for the city’s five major departments and provided assistance to the five-member elected City Council. Prior to becoming the city administrator, Mr. Little was the city’s director of planning and community development. He received a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from Portland State University and a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Eastern Oregon University. Since retiring in 2007, Mr. Little has worked as a consultant in the field of economic development and leadership training.
Rick DesimoneWashington State Director of Communications and External Affairs
Rick Desimone has spent more than two decades in government, politics and public affairs. Serving as U.S. Senator Patty Murray’s Chief of Staff from 1999 through 2006, Mr. Desimone managed all aspects of the Senator’s leadership, policy, communications, and political operations. Prior to joining Sen. Murray’s legislative office, he successfully managed her 1998 re-election effort. He began his career in Washington State electoral politics, including working on both of President Bill Clinton’s successful Washington State campaigns. Mr. Desimone graduated from Seattle University with a degree in political science.
Products & Process
What is methanol?
Also known as “methyl alcohol” or “wood alcohol,” methanol is a light and colorless liquid. It is biodegradable and not carcinogenic.
Methanol can be made from a variety of fossil fuel sources, including coal, oil, and natural gas. However, the increased availability of cleaner burning natural gas has made it more affordable and environmentally sustainable to make methanol from natural gas, prompting the Chinese and others across the world to seek the greener option.
Making pure methanol from natural gas is a fairly simple and established technology: Combine natural gas with steam and heat to produce a “synthesis gas” of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. A catalyst is then used to create a chemical reaction and the liquid is then distilled to yield 99 percent pure methanol and 1 percent water.
Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR drivers have relied upon methanol for decades to boost their vehicle performance. Methanol is much more commonly used as an essential ingredient in chemical and manufacturing processes that yield a long list of everyday products including:
Methanol is commonly used in many household products
Sterno – the fuel used to light a camp stove or to keep a chaffing dish warm – is made from methanol. The windshield fluid in many vehicles is about 30 percent methanol by weight.
Methanol can be toxic and flammable in certain situations but has been safely manufactured, stored and transported for decades within the United States without harming the environment. A 2011 article written by Duke University environmental scientists concluded that methanol posed “little long-term threat to ecosystems because it is biodegraded quickly in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions and therefore is unlikely to accumulate in the environment.” (“China’s growing methanol economy and its implications for energy and the environment,” by Chi-Jen Yang and Robert B. Jackson, Energy Policy, Nov. 2011)
To minimize any opportunity for release or spill and to protect humans and the environment, the processes NW Innovation Works will employ are totally enclosed – from input pipeline, to distillation, through storage and transport. Our plants, to be constructed with the latest technology, will operate round-the-clock with workers constantly monitoring all quality control and safety checkpoints.
NW Innovation Works manufacturing facilities will connect to underground gas pipelines, a safer alternative to transport by rail or truck. The liquid methanol product will travel to the dock via a closed pipeline and will be loaded onto bulk liquid carrier vessels designed and regulated to transport the product over the ocean.
Reducing greenhouse emissions across the globe
China’s leaders have embraced the goal of significantly cutting their country’s coal consumption over the next decade to eliminate chronic air pollutants and address long-term global warming concerns. This commitment comes at a time of rapid expansion in Asia’s consumer economy and with high demand worldwide for goods produced in Asia with petroleum or coal.
Methanol manufactured by NW Innovation Works would be exported to Asia, where it would be used to produce olefin – a key compound employed in the manufacturing of everything from plastic water bottles to cell phone cases to polyester carpets.
Olefin can also be produced with petroleum and from coal. Replacing oil and coal with olefin derived from methane made from natural gas reduces carbon emissions by as much as 70 percent. This shift will contribute to the more sustainable “Methanol Economy” advocated for more than a decade by Nobel laureate George Olah and others. ( “Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy,” George A. Olah, Alain Goeppert, G. K. Surya Prakash, Wiley-VCH)
Closer to home, NW Innovation works facilities in Oregon and Washington will be as environmentally efficient as possible. Steam produced during distillation will be captured to power plant operations. Each gallon of water will be reused 15 times before it is cooled, cleaned and discharged.
Sulfur, a secondary byproduct of the process, will be remade into a zinc sulfide pellet that will be used to make paint, glass, rubber and plastic products.
Ramping up quickly, creating jobs
NW Innovation Works anticipates a maximum of three years from start-up to operation of its first plants. A sample timeline:
Frequently Asked Questions about NW Innovation Works
To read questions and answers regarding the proposed methanol plant at Port Westward, click here.
What is methanol?
Methanol, also known as “methyl alcohol” or “wood alcohol” is a light and colorless liquid that is biodegradable and not carcinogenic. NW Innovation Works would produce the methanol from natural gas.
What is it used for?
Methanol from natural gas is becoming a replacement for methanol from petroleum and coal to be used in the production of plastics and other products. The result replaces the use of fossil fuels and dramatically reduces carbon emissions.
What is NW Innovation Works planning for the region?
The company is studying multiple sites in Washington and Oregon to construct manufacturing facilities.
Who is behind NW Innovation Works?
NW Innovation Works has a number of key international partners, including the China Academy of Sciences (CAS) and British Petroleum. Both BP and CAS have made a $485 million investment in growing clean technologies. NW Innovation Works also has a number of investors from China and the US, including Dalian, an industrial park/city in Northeast China, and H&Q AP, a Silicon Valley investment firm with a $3.5 billion portfolio that includes a portion of Boeing’s retirement fund.
How many people does NW Innovation Works expect to employ?
Based on employment numbers at plants here in the U.S., each NW Innovation Works project expects to create 120 full-time jobs at each facility phase. These will be family-wage jobs, with workers trained and recruited locally.
During multi-year construction, each NW Innovation Works phase will employ up to 1,000 workers.
How soon does NW Innovation Works expect to break ground?
We are planning to begin construction on our first facility by the end of 2014 and have set an ambitious schedule for our first phase to be fully operational by the end of 2017.
Is methanol dangerous to humans and animals?
Methanol is toxic to humans and animals. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (August 1994 chemicals in the Environment: Methanol) described methanol as biodegradable and not carcinogenic.
A 2011 article written by Duke University environmental scientists and published in the journal “Environmental Policy” concludes: “Methanol poses little long-term threat to ecosystems because it is biodegraded quickly in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions and therefore is unlikely to accumulate in the environment.” (“China’s growing methanol economy and its implications for energy and the environment,” by Chi-Jen Yang and Robert B. Jackson, Energy Policy, Nov. 2011.)
At the same time, experts and industry representatives recognize methanol is a dangerous chemical that needs to be handled by professionally trained technicians.
What happens to methanol if it is spilled?
Methanol evaporates quickly at ambient temperatures. It is the simplest of alcohols, with a molecule consisting of only carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. In the atmosphere, sunlight helps it degrade to carbon dioxide and water. If released to soil, bacteria will break it down to carbon dioxide and water.
What is the difference between LNG and methanol?
The two are very different. Northwest Innovation Works product and processes will not be similar to LNG.
LNG is liquefied natural gas which must be pressured and stored cryogenically. LNG requires highly specialized facilities for storage, loading and transport of a natural resource material.
Methanol is a value-added manufactured product; it is not simply natural gas in another physical form. It is stored and handled at ambient temperatures and pressures.
Does NW Innovation Works plan to ship by rail or otherwise create additional traffic through our community?
NW Innovation Works will not use any trains. Our product will be loaded and exported by ships designed to carry bulk liquid cargo. Prior to any permit applications we will conduct a traffic impact study and share those results with the Port. During operations, we will have daily traffic consistent with our estimated 120 employees working three shifts. We can also assume an average of two large trucks per day when the facility is in full operation.
Will NW Innovation Works plants raise consumer's natural gas prices?
Potential gas suppliers have told us that they can meet the natural gas needs of the proposed plant at Port Westward without any negative impact on existing ratepayers.
Who regulates the production of methanol in the U.S.?
Methanol plants are subject to state and federal environmental regulations. The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), as well as state agencies, monitors worker safety at methanol plants and storage facilities just like any other industrial facility. Methanol producers also must meet local fire, zoning and other laws and regulations just like any other business.
How much methanol will be produced by NW Innovation Works and where will it be stored?
Our plants will produce about 10,000 metric tons of methanol daily. The product will be nearby the manufacturing facility in, state-of-the-art, full containment tanks and surrounded by dikes to prevent any leaks or release into the environment.
Is there a market for all this methanol?
There is a strong demand for methanol in Asia as an alternative and clean feedstock for producing plastics and other every day materials, which are traditionally made from crude oil and, increasingly, from coal in China.
How can we be sure that the methanol won't be sold as fuel, which would contribute to global warming?
NW Innovation Works was formed for the purpose of manufacturing methanol to supply olefin production by plants at Dalian Xizhong Island Petrochemical Park in China. Olefin is a primary building block for plastics and other everyday materials. We can provide assurances that our methanol will not be sold as fuel.
What effects will NW Innovation Works manufacturing facilities have on the Columbia River, i.e. migrating salmon and wildlife as well as fishing, increased vessel traffic and recreation?
Our facilities will comply with all environmental laws and regulations. There will be a slight increase in vessel traffic, but we will work with Coast Guard, pilots and other marine authorities on scheduling. We do not anticipate for our plants to have any effect on fishing or recreation.
They will be located and operate in industrial zones. Even with additional river traffic from our facility, river traffic will be less than it was 20 years ago.
What permits will be required for a plant at Port Westward?
We have not begun permitting for the proposed plant. We expect the plant to require an air permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and local land use approvals. We also will need to register under the general industrial stormwater permit issued by DEQ. Depending on how the plant is sited, it may require permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of State Lands to fill wetlands, which would include requirements to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Won't you need a permit to build a dock?
The Port has indicated that it will provide services using its existing dock.
What permits will be required for a plant at Kalama, Washington?
We will need local land use approvals, including a shoreline permit and SEPA review. We’ll need an air permit from either the Department of Ecology or Southwest Clean Air Agency and a stormwater permit from the Department of Ecology. The Port has indicated that it can handle our wastewater.