CO2-based methanol from US Celanese JV resemble natgas-based costs

Author: Al Greenwood

2021/04/23

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The cost of making methanol from recycled carbon dioxide at Celanese's joint-venture plant in Clear Lake, Texas, will be comparable to those for making the chemical from natural gas, the CEO said on Friday.

Using recycled carbon dioxide (CO2) as a feedstock is part of an expansion project being undertaken by the Fairway Methanol joint venture, which is made up of Celanese and Mitsui & Co.

The expansion project will increase the methanol capacity at the plant to 1.62m tonnes/year, and it will consume 180,000 tonnes/year of CO2.

The CO2 is being vented from plants at the Clear Lake site, said Lori Ryerkerk, CEO. She made her comments during an earnings conference call. The plants at the site are owned by Celanese and other companies.

In all, 60% of the vented CO2 from the Clear Lake site will be converted into methanol, Celanese said.

Because the source of the CO2 is vented gas, that helps make its cost comparable to using natural gas as a feedstock.

That's because those streams of vented CO2 are fairly pure, Ryerkerk said.

"That's what makes this very affordable for us at Clear Lake. We can take those streams, further compress them, further purify them and add them directly to our synthesis gas at Fairway," she said.

Synthesis gas (syngas) is a mixture of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen. It is used to make methanol.

"What makes this very attractive for us is we have spare synthesis capacity currently at Fairway," Ryerkerk said. In addition, the site can access additional hydrogen through area's industrial grid.

"So with that, basically the cost of producing methanol from recycled CO2 is really comparable to our normal cost of producing methanol from natural gas," she said.

In the future, it is too early to tell if Celanese could use CO2 that other companies are capturing and storing underground, she said.

ExxonMobil has proposed such a carbon-capture project along the Houston Ship Channel.

Before that CO2 can be used as feedstock, Celanese would need to know its purity and how much it would cost to clean up the stream, she said. "I like the idea of recycling CO2 more than just sticking it in the ground, but you have to look at the economics of it."