Author Archive | Alan Bryce

Chetwynd gas plant would need up to 2,000 workers

Credit: Alaska Highway News
New Zealand Plant: Blue Fuel Energy proposed to build a massive $3.8 billion natural gas-to-gasoline plant outside of Chetwynd, similar to the one pictured here in New Zealand.

New Zealand Plant: Blue Fuel Energy proposed to build a massive $3.8 billion natural gas-to-gasoline plant outside of Chetwynd, similar to the one pictured here in New Zealand.

 

A decision could be made this year on a proposed $2.5 billion gas plant near Chetwynd that would come with up to 300 full time jobs.

Blue Fuel says it hopes to have an Environmental Assessment Certificate granted by mid- to late 2015, and it will make a final investment decision by the end of the year.

The large natural gas-to-gasoline and methanol plant planned for a 1,055-acre site outside
Chetwynd is projected to create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs during construction and 250 to 300 full-time positions once its up and running.

But according to Blue Fuel Energy’s CEO Juergen Puetter, many of the temporary positions may be filled by Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs). “We may have to [use TFWs for construction]. This is something we are working with our engineering firms on, because we don’t know where we are going to get the people from,” Puetter said in an interview.

“Site C [is] a big negative, because it’s a large project nearby that is going to take away a big workforce.”

The first phase of the Sundance Fuels project will cost approximately $2.5 billion, and will consist of a plant that will use natural gas, wind, and hydro power to produce reduced carbon gasoline.

The second phase will be lead by Canadian Methanol Corporation, and will consist of a second plant on the site, using the same natural gas to produce methanol, which will be sold overseas for use in developing plastics, lubricants and gels.

All told, the capital cost of the Sundance Fuels facilities is projected to be in the range of $3 billion to $4 billion.

The two companies are independent but will share infrastructure at Sundance.

Two hurdles remain for the project: a shortage of local labour, and the lack of a secure source for the natural gas.

Blue Fuel’s communications director Alan Bryce admits they don’t have any firm plans yet on a natural gas source.

“We are currently in discussion with a couple of potential suppliers,” he said. “That is a key element of the equation, but its not going to be very difficult to solve. People want to get rid of their gas up there.”

To address the shortage of local labour, CEO Peutter noted that the company is working on a construction design that would see much of the plant built outside of the region, and then transported and installed on site.

Whether this will bring down the construction job estimates is unclear at this time. But certainly, constructing parts of the project outside of the province will have an impact.

“We’re working on getting as much manufacturing done elsewhere because we don’t know where we are going to get the people from,” Puetter said. “There are many variables. We don’t know exactly how we are going to handle that one yet.”

Everything else, from permitting with the Oil and Gas Commission to First Nations engagement and support from the District of Chetwynd, are a showing good signs for the project moving ahead.

The plant is currently in the permitting stage with the provincial government, and Blue Fuel is working closely with the Oil and Gas Commission, the Agricultural Lands Commission, Canadian National Rail and the District of Chetwynd.

Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols has thrown his support behind the project.

The company has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place with the West Moberly First Nation, which allows “both parties to explore additional opportunities and commercial benefits arising from the prospective production of renewable hydrogen and gas-derived liquid fuels on West Moberly First Nation’s traditional territory.”

The project has also been given what the company terms “broad-based” support among other Treaty 8 First Nations in the region. Puetter notes that similar MOU’s are close to being completed with the Saulteau First Nation and the McLeod Lake Indian Band.

The negotiations are quite positive, Puetter said, because there are opportunities there for First Nations owned spin-off businesses.

“One that is particularly suitable for the First Nations is, we will be giving them free hot water for green house growing operations.”

Blue Fuel commissioned a study to review the feasibility of using the plant’s wastewater to heat greenhouses to grow crops year round.

“ I can stand here and say it’s a wonderful opportunity sure – but now we have a third party doing the analysis and it came back better than we anticipated,” Puetter remarked. “It’s a very elegant way of taking what is a waste byproduct and making it into something that is green, clean and renewable.”

The Sundance Fuels plant will draw water directly from the Pine River, just downstream of its confluence with the Murray.

At this point, 800 million cubic metres of water per year is available for industry or agriculture, which is about 10 per cent of the river’s flow. Sundance will use 203 per cent of this.

Construction of the plant is estimated to take two and a half years. Initial production is projected for late 2018.

dcreporter@dcdn.ca

Multi-Billion Dollar Refinery Proposed for Chetwynd

Credit: CJDC – Peace Country’s Country

Big news is developing along a coast close to home: According to President of Aeolis Wind Power Corp. and CEO of Blue Fuel Energy Juergen Puetter, Chetwynd could be the selected spot for a two-phase, multi-billion dollar gasoline refinery and methanol plant.

“We have gotten ourselves some land next to the pulp mill in Chetwynd, just about 20 kms east of Chetwynd,” Puetter said. “We expect to be utilizing natural gas and a facility that can convert the natural gas into gasoline and then electrolyze water into hydrogen to make a low carbon gasoline that can be used to comply with the low carbon fuels standard that B.C. and California currently have.”

In addition to an environmentally friendly product, Puetter adds the process in which to make the product would have environmental benefits too.

“Typically you would build a plant on the ocean, but as you know, pipelines are a big issue in B.C.,” Puetter said. “By making a product in Chetwynd area, you are able to make [a product] that you can transport by rail and thereby not being contingent on having a gas line on the coast.”

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost under $2.5 billion and is expected to create at least 150 jobs.

“This is a value added commodity, so it’s a long term project,” Puetter explained. “We expect to have perhaps around 150 permanent jobs and a significantly larger number during its construction.”

Economic boom associated with the plans is why Chetwynd’s Mayor is even giving the project a thumbs up.

“I believe it will create steady employment, a steady source of income, for quite a number of workers,” Mayor Merlin Nichols said. “It’s going to be good for the whole area.”

To learn more about this proposition, a public meeting regarding the Clean Fuels Plant will be held on Thursday, February 19 at 5 p.m. in Chetwynd’s Recreation Arena.

Sources say that if all goes as planned, construction could start as early as 2016.

$3.8 billion gas refinery could be in the works for Chetwynd

Credit: Pipline News North

gas_refinery

 

Two “green” oil refineries proposed for the B.C. northwest coast may have some serious competition in Chetwynd: a refinery that would make gasoline from natural gas and hydrogen, not oil.

Juergen Puetter, president of Aeolis Wind Power Corp. and CEO of Blue Fuel Energy Corp., has been quietly assembling a multibillion-dollar, two-phase plan to build a gasoline refinery in Chetwynd, followed by a methanol plant a couple of years later.

“We have the land, we have the First Nations on board, we are in the middle of permitting,” Puetter said.

The company also has two former senior Methanex Corp. (TSX:MX) executives on board: Michael Macdonald, Methanex’s former senior vice-president of global operations, and Ron Britton, former senior vice-president, who is Blue Fuel’s new chief technology officer.

The first phase of the project would be a refinery at a cost of $2 billion to $2.5 billion that would use natural gas – readily available in the Chetwynd area – and hydrogen and oxygen from water. It would be followed by a $1.8 billion methanol plant.

Using technology licensed from ExxonMobil, the plant would make methanol from natural gas, which would then be made into a low-carbon gasoline, using the hydrogen and oxygen parsed from water.

The energy inputs to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a water molecule are high. Puetter said the Sundance Fuels project will require 150 megawatts of power (about one-seventh the capacity of the Site C dam), which it would get from the grid.

Aeolis, which developed the Bear Mountain wind farm, also has several other large wind farm prospects, and Puetter hopes that some of the power needed could eventually come from wind.

He said all of the chemical processes that would be used are tried and true, they just haven’t been put together before on any large scale to produce gasoline from natural gas.

“There are some major technological steps forward and putting it together is not easy,” he said. “We’ve been at this for five years. Nobody’s done this on this scale before.”

Such a plant would not be feasible in many other jurisdictions. But Puetter said B.C. has the right combination of resources and policies that make it viable.

In North America, natural gas is abundant and cheap. B.C. also has relatively low-cost electricity and a low carbon fuel standard.

Low carbon fuel standards are designed to address the life cycle of carbon dioxide produced in the process of extracting oil, refining it into gasoline and then burning it. One of the reasons Alberta oilsands bitumen has such a negative reputation is that its life cycle is more carbon-intensive than gasoline made from conventional oil, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Using “renewable” hydrogen from water would help lower the carbon intensity of the gasoline the Sundance Fuels plant would produce to meet low carbon fuel standards.

“In Alberta this wouldn’t work, because if you did the same thing in Alberta, and used Alberta grid power – it’s all made from coal – the carbon intensity would go up,” Puetter said.

The site in Chetwynd is also advantageous. The company has acquired 1,065 acres of private land just outside of the town that has rail access. The fuel and methanol it produced could therefore be shipped by rail.

“We don’t require a pipeline, so we think we’re going to be ahead of any LNG project,” Puetter said.

Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols said the project would be a welcome economic development.

“We’re supportive,” he said. “The nature of the plant, the nature of the product and the nature of the jobs created – long-term, high-quality, high-paying jobs – it would be good for the town.”

Local First Nations are also on board, Puetter said. Under an agreement with First Nations, Sundance Fuels would provide waste heat, which First Nations could use in greenhouses.

“You wouldn’t normally think of building greenhouses in the Peace region, because it’s so cold,” Puetter said. “But if the energy is free, it becomes a totally different ball game because land is very cheap there and making it a fully First Nation-owned business turns out to be extraordinarily attractive.

@ Copyright 2015 Pipeline News North

Oil refinery proposals face gas refinery competition

Credit: Business In Vancouver
The Sundance Fuels project would synthesize gasoline from natural gas, hydrogen and oxygen at a refinery in Chetwynd. The company says the plant would be similar to this Statoil gas plant in Norway

The Sundance Fuels project would synthesize gasoline from natural gas, hydrogen and oxygen at a refinery in Chetwynd. The company says the plant would be similar to this Statoil gas plant in Norway

 

Two “green” oil refineries proposed for the B.C. northwest coast may have some serious competition in Chetwynd: a refinery that would make gasoline from natural gas and hydrogen, not oil.

Juergen Puetter, president of Aeolis Wind Power Corp. and CEO of Blue Fuel Energy Corp., has been quietly assembling a multibillion-dollar, two-phase plan to build a gasoline refinery in Chetwynd, followed by a methanol plant a couple of years later.

“We have the land, we have the First Nations on board, we are in the middle of permitting,” Puetter said.

The company also has two former senior Methanex Corp. (TSX:MX) executives on board: Michael Macdonald, Methanex’s former senior vice-president of global operations, and Ron Britton, former senior vice-president, who is Blue Fuel’s new chief technology officer.

The first phase of the project would be a refinery at a cost of $2 billion to $2.5 billion that would use natural gas – readily available in the Chetwynd area – and hydrogen and oxygen from water. It would be followed by a $1.8 billion methanol plant.

Using technology licensed from ExxonMobil, the plant would make methanol from natural gas, which would then be made into a low-carbon gasoline, using the hydrogen and oxygen parsed from water.

The energy inputs to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a water molecule are high. Puetter said the Sundance Fuels project will require 150 megawatts of power (about one-seventh the capacity of the Site C dam), which it would get from the grid.

Aeolis, which developed the Bear Mountain wind farm, also has several other large wind farm prospects, and Puetter hopes that some of the power needed could eventually come from wind.

He said all of the chemical processes that would be used are tried and true, they just haven’t been put together before on any large scale to produce gasoline from natural gas.

“There are some major technological steps forward and putting it together is not easy,” he said. “We’ve been at this for five years. Nobody’s done this on this scale before.”

Such a plant would not be feasible in many other jurisdictions. But Puetter said B.C. has the right combination of resources and policies that make it viable.

In North America, natural gas is abundant and cheap. B.C. also has relatively low-cost electricity and a low carbon fuel standard.

Low carbon fuel standards are designed to address the life cycle of carbon dioxide produced in the process of extracting oil, refining it into gasoline and then burning it. One of the reasons Alberta oilsands bitumen has such a negative reputation is that its life cycle is more carbon-intensive than gasoline made from conventional oil, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Using “renewable” hydrogen from water would help lower the carbon intensity of the gasoline the Sundance Fuels plant would produce to meet low carbon fuel standards.

“In Alberta this wouldn’t work, because if you did the same thing in Alberta, and used Alberta grid power – it’s all made from coal – the carbon intensity would go up,” Puetter said.

The site in Chetwynd is also advantageous. The company has acquired 1,065 acres of private land just outside of the town that has rail access. The fuel and methanol it produced could therefore be shipped by rail.

“We don’t require a pipeline, so we think we’re going to be ahead of any LNG project,” Puetter said.

Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols said the project would be a welcome economic development.

“We’re supportive,” he said. “The nature of the plant, the nature of the product and the nature of the jobs created – long-term, high-quality, high-paying jobs – it would be good for the town.”

Local First Nations are also on board, Puetter said. Under an agreement with First Nations, Sundance Fuels would provide waste heat, which First Nations could use in greenhouses.

“You wouldn’t normally think of building greenhouses in the Peace region, because it’s so cold,” Puetter said. “But if the energy is free, it becomes a totally different ball game because land is very cheap there and making it a fully First Nation-owned business turns out to be extraordinarily attractive.”

nbennett@biv.com

Swedish ship designers create marine methanol.com

ScandiNAOS AB,  a Swedish company focused on ship design, sea cargo handling, and logistics, has created a website focused on the use of methanol as a marine fuel: www.marinemethol.com. This is a function of the company’s devotion to creating energy efficient and sustainable shipping. As their website notes:

“During the past years much of ScandiNAOS’s efforts has been devoted to alternative fuels, methanol in particular, and energy efficiency in general through the EffShip project and its successors. Specific goals for the EffShip project included improving the efficiency of the ship machinery, introducing alternative marine fuels, using wind energy as a complementary propulsion force and developing applicable technology for reducing the emissions of CO2, NOx, SOx and Particulate Matter.

In the SPIRETH project that followed a DME-methanol mixture (OBATETM) was tried on board Stena Scanrail. Besides the technological aspects of the project issues regarding classification and flag state approval were major parts in the project. While the SPIRETH project is still active, ScandiNAOS is a partner in Stena Lines work to convert Stena Germanica to methanol.”

Here in British Columbia, BC Ferries, which operates the world’s second largest ferry system,  is looking to convert some of its ships to LNG, a fuel that ScandiNAOS unequivocally states is inferior to methanol as a shipping fuel. Given that the BC government owns BC Ferries and sees LNG as a $1 trillion industry in the province over the next three decades, BC Ferries’ current approach is not surprising. Over the next few years, however, as the plans of Blue Fuel Energy and Canadian Methanol approach fruition, it would not be surprising to see BC Ferries give methanol a much closer look. Time will tell.

 

 

 

Hydrogen fuel cell car demonstration project in Europe

As an April 3 article in renewableenergyfocus.com notes, leading automobile companies, hydrogen fuel suppliers, and energy consultants, not to mention the Mayor of London’s Office, have signed up to the HyFIVE hydrogen fuel cell car demonstration project. The project not only features hydrogen fuel cell cars, but electrolyzer-based refuelling stations in London, a clear indicator of the role that renewable hydrogen — and by extension, renewable methanol for transporting and storing renewable hydrogen — will have to play in the burgeoning fuel cell market.

 

Fuel cell experimental aircraft

Lange Aviation and the German Aerospace Centre have developed the Antares DLR-H2 testbed, which the company says is the world’s first piloted aircraft capable of performing a complete flight powered only by fuel cells. The plane has flown up to 500 km, with a maximum time in the air of almost four hours. Although the plane is clearly experimental and is not ready for commercialization, it does demonstrate that fuel cells do have considerable potential in the aviation field. The fuel cell being used is a proton exchange membrane, and the fuel can be either hydrogen or methanol. The fuel and the fuel cells are contained in pods under the wing.

As a Flightglobal article from April 7 notes, when hydrogen is used the aircraft has a maximum flight time of about 15 hours, but when methanol is used the maximum flight time increases to 50 hours (with a flight range of 6000 km), though for reasons unexplained, the use of methanol instead of hydrogen does present other challenges. Axel Lange, CEO of Lange Aviation, sees fuel cell-powered aircraft largely replacing the traditional owner-pilot model. Who knows, in the not-too-distant future, fuel cells may well have a significant role to play in powering much larger aircraft carrying passengers on commercial flights.

 

Methanol as a marine fuel

According to an April 10 article in The Motor Ship (a journal for marine professionals), recent developments present new opportunities for the use of methanol as a marine fuel, including the reforming of methanol into hydrogen for fuel cells. This, of course, is a function of the growing realization that methanol is a better carrier of hydrogen than hydrogen itself, as well as development of the IGF Code (International Code for Ships using Gas or other Low Flash-Point Fuels), which could be approved in November 2014 and be implemented by July 2017, leading to diversification of the fuels used to power ocean-going vessels around the world.

 

 

 

Methanol tested as a power generation fuel in Israel

Eilat, Israel’s most southerly city,  has a population of about 50,000 and recently one of the production units at its power plant started burning methanol instead of diesel. This was done in the advanced stages of a pilot project being implemented by the Israel Electric Power Corporation and Dor Chemicals to improve the reliability of the city’s power supply. Apart from enhancing reliability, project proponents anticipate better environmental performance (methanol burns much cleaner than diesel) and economic benefits (methanol is 15% cheaper than diesel, a differential that is expected to increase).