19 February 2014 by Published in: News No comments yet

No Major Flooding Expected

WEBParkphotoTHE CLATSKANIE RIVER SPILLED OVER ITS BANKS a bit in the Clatskanie City Park with the high tides on Monday and Tuesday, but no major flooding problems were expected in the wake of last week’s snowmelt and this week’s heavy rains. Some local residents reported flooding in basements from run-off and heavily-saturated soil. The City of Clatskanie was offering sand and sandbags at its Highway 47 shop to local residents who needed them. Lighter rains and drier weather was predicted for the rest of the week. Chief Photo by Amanda Gail Moravec

Port Commission Signs Lease Option with Methanol Company

A resolution authorizing the Port of St. Helens to enter into an option to lease agreement with Northwest Innovation Works, LLC (NIW) for approximately 80 acres at the Port Westward industrial site near Clatskanie, was adopted by the Port commission at its meeting Feb. 12.

The lease option reserves the property for NIW, and protects proprietary information, while the company continues to develop its plans for a $1 billion methanol production plant at Port Westward.

Spokespersons for the company have said that a second, $800,000 phase, which would be built after the first phase begins operation, may be built at Port Westward. Another $1 billion phase has been proposed for Kalama.

The property on which the NIW proposes to build its methanol (methyl or wood alcohol) plant is not part of the original Beaver Army ammunition depot, but was purchased about a decade ago by the Summit Westward project, which did not come to fruition. The Port of St. Helens then purchased the property. It is not part of the land under long-term lease to Portland General Electric, and it is not part of the former Greenwood Resources property, also purchased by the Port, which is being rezoned.

The proposed site of the methanol plant is already zoned heavy industrial. It is located about 1,000 yards southeast of the Global Partners Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery and even farther from PGE’s power generating facilities at Port Westward.

Each phase of the plant would employ about 120 people, operating 24 hours per day, seven days a week. An estimated 1,000 construction workers would be employed during the two to three year construction period – a peak of 400 to 500 at a time.

The proposed new industry would not use the railroad.

Questions Answered

In response to questions asked at a Port commission hearing on the project in Clatskanie on Jan. 23, NIW last week issued the following answers.

Question (Q): What is the footprint of the project on the site?

Answer (A): Our proposed plant will require approximately 80 to 90 acres. More land may be necessary if we expand.

Q: What will the plant look like?

A: A picture of a similar facility in Trinidad is available for viewing on the Internet at http://nwinnovationworks.com/FAQ-PortWestward.pdf.

Q: What is the market for methanol?

A: The Xizhong Island Petrochemical Park in Dalian, China has signed agreements committing to purchase methanol from Northwest Innovation Works  projects. Construction is already under way on storage facilities in Dalian to accommodate methanol produced by NW Innovation Works.

The methanol will be used to produce olefins, which serve as a building block for many common materials including plastics. The current demand for methanol for olefin production exceeds the available supply, particularly methanol from sources cleaner than coal.

Q: Why are you looking at multiple sites in Oregon and Washington?

A: Our customer needs more methanol than we can produce with one or two plants. We intent to permit and construct at least two plants concurrently and hope to build additional plants thereafter. We have begun discussions with other locations for possible additional plants and we will explore the possibility of future expansion of the plants proposed for Port Westward and Kalama.

Q: What byproducts or wastes are associated with making methanol from natural gas?

A: The methanol production process includes use of catalysts to transform the natural gas into carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen and then to synthesize these compounds into methanol. After a few years, these catalysts become spent and have to be replaced. The principal catalysts used in the reforming and synthesis process are based on nickel, copper, zinc and aluminum. When these catalysts are spent, they are normally sent to a specialized metals recycler that processes them to recover the valuable metals.

Zinc oxide is used to remove sulfur impurities from natural gas. This desulfurization process produces zinc sulfide as a byproduct. Zinc sulfide is typically sent to a specialized recycler to be further processed.

Q: What is zinc oxide and how is it used?

A: Zinc oxide is a chemical commonly found in topical skin ointments, such as sunblock. It is a product the facility will purchase and use to help remove the sulfur impurities in the natural gas from the pipeline.

Q: What pollutants will the plant release into the air?

A: Emissions from the plant will be almost entirely from the combustion of natural gas, and include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds and fine particulates. These are the same pollutants that come from any natural gas combustion – from a residential gas furnace or gas kitchen stove to a natural gas-based power plant.

NW Innovation Works will need to obtain an air quality construction permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and will be subject to rules requiring best available control technology for its emissions.

Q: How much water will the facility use?

A: Depending on how the facility is designed, it may use more than 2500 gallons per minute of water for cooling and for the methanol production process. The cooling water will be recycled many times through various processes to limit water use. Approximately 90 percent of that water will be either lost as vapor to the atmosphere or consumed during the methanol production process.

Q: Where will the water come from?

A: We expect to obtain water from the Port. The Port will allow NW Innovation Works to use up to 2,750 gallons per minute from its existing water system, which draws its water supply from the Columbia River.

Q: How much wastewater will the facility produce and how will it be discharged?

A: Depending on how the facility is designed, it may discharge roughly 200 gallons per minute of wastewater. Most of this wastewater will be cooling water, which will be discharged after going through several cycles as described below.

The Port currently holds a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), and can accept our wastewater and discharge it through its existing wastewater management system with proper mitigation as required under the permit.

Q: Is there sufficient sewer service for the project?

A: Sewage from our restrooms will be treated and disposed through an on-site septic system.

Q: What role does steam play in the process?

A: Our process will require steam to drive rotating machinery, which will be provided by steam generated by heat recovery from the process and a small amount from a boiler. Steam will also be mixed with the natural gas to produce the carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, required to form the methanol. The plant will be designed to maximize energy efficiency and conserve water through the use of heat exchangers. Cooling water will be recycled many times through our cooling towers.

Q: How much electricity will the plant consume?

A: The initial plant we have proposed will need approximately 200 MW-hr/day.

Q: How much truck traffic will be generated by your operation?

A: 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 two delivery trucks per day.

Q: What will be the main access to the site?

A: The main access will be Kallunki Road. Should Hermo Road be improved, Hermo Road may be considered the main access to the site.

Q: 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 Univeristy environmental scientists and published in the journal “Energy 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.

Q: What happens to methanol if it is spilled?

A: 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 methanol degrade to carbon dioxide and water. If released to soil, bacteria will break it down to carbon dioxide and water.

Q: Is methanol flammable as a liquid or a gas?

A: Methanol is a flammable liquid at room temperature. Methanol vapor in a confined space is also combustible. There’s no question that methanol can be dangerous in certain situations, but it is not when handled with care. That is why NW Innovation Works will work closely with the Port and the local fire department to develop comprehensive safety plans.

Q: What is the difference between LNG and methanol?

A: The two are very different. NW Innovation Works’ product and processes will not be similar to LNG.

LNG is liquefied natural gas which must be pressured and stored cryogenically (-260 degrees Fahrenheit or -162 degrees Centigrade). 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.

Q: What is NW Innovation Works doing to protect the safety of workers and surrounding businesses and residents in and around Port Westward?

A: NW Innovation Works will design the plant with controls to avoid spills, fires and other risks to the public and the environment. As a new plant, the engineering and design of the facility will be state of the art. On-site storage facilities will be designed with redundant containment systems.

NW Innovation Works will prepare an emergency response plan and will have its own emergency response capabilities. We also will be working with the local fire district to supplement on-site emergency response capabilities.

Q: With an ethanol plant and oil terminal nearby, how can the public be certain the area will be safe?

A: NW Innovation works plants will rely upon the latest technology, which includes safety controls and backup systems. NW Innovation Works is committed to working with port officials and other facilities at the port to ensure coordinated planning and emergency response.

Q: How much methanol will be stored at this site?

A: We will need to store some inventory on site before it is shipped. We expect to construct storage facilities for between 50,000 and 100,000 tons of methanol product which is 10 to 20 days of production.

Q: Could the plant be used to produce methanol from coal?

A: No. The process for producing methanol from coal is very different and would require a different plant infrastructure. The proposed plant would produce methanol only from natural gas. NW Innovation Works’ investors want to produce methanol from natural gas because it is more cost effective than coal and because it has much lower environmental impacts.

Q: What permits will the plant require?

A: 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 U.S. 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.

Q: How long will the permitting take?

A: We hope to complete the permitting in about a year, although it could take longer.

Q: How much energy does it take to manufacture methanol from natural gas?

A: Depending on plant design and the quality of the natural gas, approximately 70 percent of the natural gas NW Innovation Works will consume will be converted to methanol. The remainder will be combusted to produce the energy necessary for the chemical processes.

Q: Where will the gas come from?

A: We would expect to purchase natural gas from a local natural gas supplier. Gas for the proposed plant will be delivered via an existing natural gas pipeline.

Q: Is there sufficient gas to meet the demand without adversely impacting local ratepayers?

A: North America has abundant supplies of natural gas. 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.

Q: How much gas will be stored on site?

A: We will not be constructing storage facilities for natural gas. We will take our gas directly from the pipeline to our processes.

Q: Will the plant be open to union work?

A: Yes.

Q: What tax abatements will NW Innovation Works pursue?

A: We look forward to discussing potential tax abatements with our state and local partners. Certainly, however, a $1 billion plant will generate substantial tax revenues in the communities where we operate.

Q: When was Northwest Innovation Works, LLC formed?

A: Northwest Innovation Works, LLC is a new company formed for the purposes of developing methanol plants in the Pacific Northwest. It does not have any existing operations. Major investors of Northwest Innovation Works include CECC (a Chinese process technology commercialization and licensing company and 51/49 joint venture between Chinese Academy of Sciences Holdings Co., Ltd. and BP Global Investments Limited), Dalian Xizhong Island Petrochemical Industrial Park Development Co., Ltd. (a Chinese government-owned company that is developing a world class petrochemical park in Dalian, China) and H&Q Asia Pacific (a well-established private equity firm in Palo Alto, Calif.).

Q: Will NW Innovation Works work with local partners when it begins hiring?

A: Yes. Our plants will need managers, engineers and skilled workers. NW Innovation Works expects to collaborate with local partners to find the most qualified employees.

Q: How much will NW Innovation Works pay its employees?

A: Salaries will be commensurate with the position and skills involved. NW Innovation Works is committed to offering employees family-living wages and benefits.

Additional information is available at http://nwinnovationworks.com/

Commissioners Ponder Placing Jail Levy on Ballot

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Columbia County’s board of commissioners were expected to decide Wednesday, Feb. 19, whether to place a three-year local option jail operating levy on the May ballot.

After a series of public meetings in January, petitions have been circulating throughout the county urging the commissioners to place a jail operating levy on the May ballot. A four-year operating levy failed in the November election.

At a town hall meeting in Clatskanie Jan. 30, the county commissioners and Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said that – without more funding – they would have no recourse but to shut down the county jail by the end of the current fiscal year, June 30.

While increased industrial tax valuation will help solve the problem in the future, for the next several years no significant increase in funding – without a levy – is anticipated.

If the jail shuts down, the sheriff’s department will have enough money to rent 10 beds in Polk County and transfer Columbia County’s 10 most dangerous detainees there. Others arrested will be cited and released, Dickerson said.

Supporters of placing the levy on the May ballot are proposing a three, rather than four, year levy, at a cost of approximately 58 cents per $1,000 of valuation. They are also asking that an oversight committee be appointed to oversee the jail budget  to insure “transparency.”

School Superintendents Urge Support for Levy

Among those urging the county commissioners to place the issue before the voters are Columbia County’s five school superintendents – Michael Carter of Rainier, Lloyd Hartley of Clatskanie,  Ken Cox of Vernonia, Mark Davalos of St. Helens and  Stephen Jupe of Vernonia – who issued the following proclamation Tuesday morning.


“Whereas the safety and security of our community is dependent on the effective and efficient processing of individuals who might endanger the good citizens of Columbia County


“Whereas the existence of the Columbia County Jail is a vital deterrent that encourages citizens of Columbia County to strive to act within the law


“Whereas Columbia County Jail’s existence also deters citizens who live outside the county and the law from targeting our county with criminal activities


“Whereas all our law enforcement agencies need to have a location to book and hold citizens whose activities might threaten our county safety and security


“Whereas domestic violence is a threat to family safety that can be delayed or prevented by timely protective incarceration of threats to spouses and children


“Whereas social and mental health agencies need to have a location to hold citizens whose activities might threaten their own and others safety and security


“Whereas the loss of our jail will cause our law enforcement personnel to have to transport criminals to jails in other counties at a significant cost to our taxpayers


“Whereas the loss of Columbia County Jail will threaten the economic development of our county by discouraging law abiding citizens from moving here and staying here

“We, the Superintendents of Columbia County, believe that the Columbia County Jail is crucial to the welfare of our community, and we urge all citizens of Columbia County to support all endeavors to save our Columbia County Jail for the fundamental safety of our children, for the security of our families and for the future of our communities.”

Fire Board Discusses Methanol Plant

by Adam J. Wehrley

Future industrial fire protection preparations for Northwest Innovation Work’s (NIW) proposed $1 billion methanol plant highlighted discussions at the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District’s (CRFPD) board meeting Wednesday, Feb 12.

NIW president Vee Godley and consultant Brian Little spoke to the board at the request of CRFPD board chair Robert Keyser. NIW is aiming to have the plant operational by the end of 2017 or early 2018 and is working through the permitting process. The Port of St. Helens approved NIW’s lease option to place its facility at Port Westward, north of Clatskanie, at its meeting last week. (See separate story on page 1).

Godley explained that natural gas will be converted into 5000 metric tons of methanol per day. He emphasized that the plant will produce methanol as a component for the plastics industry in China. By manufacturing methanol in the Pacific Northwest, the plant will not be subject to the more volatile energy market, Godley said.

Panamax ships will transport the methanol to Dalian in northeast China where it will be converted to olefins as a base for plastics.

While methanol is flammable, unlike liquid natural gas (LNG) it is not stored at high pressure or in cryogenic containers.

Since the plant will be fed by the existing natural gas pipeline, and the methanol will be exported via ship, the major traffic impact will be workers commuting to Port Westward, according to Little.

Godley stated that tax incentives were not major factors in selecting the site, rather the abundant availability of natural gas and the ability to export via Panamax ship drew NIW to the area. Godley and Little said the NIW would be negotiating incentives with various agencies.

Keyser reported that CRFPD is moving forwards with plans to improve its firefighting capabilities near Port Westward, through the Quincy station.

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously approved a letter to the Columbia County Commissioners asking them to keep CRFPD informed and up-to-date on urban renewal district discussions and other property tax-related issues between the county and NIW.

NIW has committed to working collaboratively with CRFPD to provide for fire protection at their site.

Hiring, Property and Medic Updates

The district completed the hiring process for two full-time firefighter/paramedics, Andrew Mustola and Greg Foster. The board unanimously approved their hiring.

Regarding the effort to improve the district’s capabilities through the Quincy station, the board discussed a possible property swap, which would give the district more road frontage in case expansion is necessary.

Emergency medical services division officer Bruce Holsey gave an update on the selection process towards ordering a new ambulance. The board granted permission for him to travel to Redmond for a demonstration.

Board member Jim Gibson backed the proposal to purchase a 4×4 model, especially in light of recent snow falls.

Fire division officer Erick Holsey reported that two volunteer firefighters had graduated from the a recent recruit academy.

DOJ Orders Rainier Senior Center to Produce Records

by Adam J. Wehrley

With the legal force of a subpoena, the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued orders for the Rainier Senior Center to produce a variety of financial documents, administrative records, and internal and external communications.

The orders for the documents were issued to senior center director William Diaz. Along with financial records and documentation of board meetings, actions, agendas and communications, the orders requested detailed descriptions of the center’s activities, facilities lease agreement with the City of Rainier and the financial oversight process.

The orders were issued by the DOJ’s Charitable Activities Section under its authority to oversee nonprofit corporations and charitable trusts. This section is part of the DOJ’s civil enforcement division. The orders are not related to criminal charges and listed no specific allegations.

Concerns over the center’s alleged lax record keeping practices have been brought up at many Rainier City Council meetings and other forums over the past year. Several city councilors have been active in the investigation.

Former senior center director Gared Wold resigned at the start of the city’s investigation last year. Diaz took over as volunteer director afterwards.

The DOJ orders the submission of documents back to 2010, including: bank and credit card records, in-kind donation records, Amazon and Pay-Pal accounts and donated vehicle records.

The orders also stated that Diaz or a designated board member will be required to testify.

Rainbow Over the River


SUNLIGHT SLID THROUGH THE RAIN CLOUDS at Jones Beach west of Clatskanie on Sunday to create a rainbow over the Columbia River. Photo by Fred Schondebare



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