Methanol rush heats up as SLM methanol project gets permit

08 January 2014 23:33 Source:ICIS News

By Lane Kelley

HOUSTON (ICIS)--South Louisiana Methanol’s project to build a $1.3bn plant at the Mississippi River has received the required air permit from the state of Louisiana, the company said on Wednesday.

Construction will begin in the second half of 2014, according to a release by the company. South Louisiana Methanol (SLM) is a joint venture between Texas firm ZEEP Management and New Zealand’s Todd Corp.

When first announced in April 2013, the SLM project claimed to be the largest methanol plant in North America, producing 5,000 tonnes/day or roughly 1.8m tonnes/year.

But since then two other similar-sized projects have been announced, signifying the land rush that has developed in building US methanol plants to take advantage of the nation’s cheap natural gas.

Valero Energy, the largest independent refiner in the US, said in July it planned to build a 1.6m tonne/year methanol plant at one of its refineries in St. Charles, Louisiana, near New Orleans.

In November, OCI said it would build the largest plant in North America near its existing Texas unit at Beaumont, a 1.75m tonne/year plant which the company estimates will cost $1bn.

So far, the three new North American methanol plants that have begun operating since April 2011 have been restarts of mothballed plants.

The latest restart, LyondellBasell’s 780,000 tonne/year unit in Channelview near Houston, began operating in December, according to the company.

Methanex has moved one of its idled plants from Chile to Geismar, Louisiana, which it says will begin operating late this year, and the Canada-based producer also plans to move another Chile unit to Louisiana and have it running by early 2016.

The SLM Louisiana project appears to be the first new greenfield project to get its air permit.

But Texas-based chemical producer Celanese appears to have virtual final approval on its air permit application for the proposed methanol plant the company plans to build near Houston.

An official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said this week that the Sierra Club had submitted questions on the Celanese application which the EPA answered. Aimee Wilson at the EPA said the environmental group had until 12 January to file an appeal.

“If they do not file a petition, the (Celanese) permit will become effective next week,” Wilson said.

 

By Lane Kelley