Tacoma methanol plant plans paused

A controversial proposal to build the world’s largest methanol manufacturing plant at the Port of Tacoma has been shelved for “the next several months,” the company proposing to build the facility said Friday afternoon.

In a press release on its website, Northwest Innovation Works said it has asked Tacoma officials to pause the environmental review process that was a prerequisite to getting permits to build the plant. The company, which is majority-owned by China’s government, has proposed to build a facility that would produce 20,000 tons of methanol a day for export via tanker to China, where it would be used to manufacture plastics.

Northwest Innovation Works president Murray “Vee” Godley said in the statement that the company has been “surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma” and would spend the next few months on public outreach efforts. The statement sets no timetable for when the company might restart its application. Under its original timeline, the company had hoped to have the 125-acre facility fully operational in 2021, assuming all permits were in hand in 2017.

The Tacoma proposal had attracted sharp public and online criticism, including from almost every speaker at a Feb. 10 public meeting at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center that was attended by more than 1,000 people.

“This will provide us an opportunity to share more details about our proposed project, discuss the environmental and safety procedures we are planning, and hear directly from the public about their concerns, as well as receive input on further innovations,” the press release says.

The company has also proposed two smaller methanol plants in Kalama and St. Helens, Ore.


Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally