Proposed gas plant in District of Chetwynd will produce the world’s cleanest gas, says CEO

Credit: Northeast News
Proposed gas plant in District of Chetwynd will produce the world’s cleanest gas, says CEO

Proposed gas plant in District of Chetwynd will produce the world’s cleanest gas, says CEO


CHETWYND – The proposed Blue Fuel Energy (BFE) renewables- and natural gas-to-gasoline plant, if it goes forward, could potentially turn the world’s eye towards the Peace region.

It could be a producer of the planet’s cleanest and least carbon intensive gasoline, says Juergen Puetter, BFE chairman and CEO.

“We think it’s going to be a project that will be globally recognized. It’s pretty unique,” said Puetter. “It’s the first large-scale project anywhere on the planet that will bridge the gap between renewable energy and fossil fuels.”

“We’re trying to replace an oil-derived gasoline by using natural gas, which is cleaner than bitumen oil,” Puetter explained. “And then further reducing the intensity of the carbon by not burning gas in the process, because if you make any chemicals you need energy, typically by burning gas and making steam. Instead of that we’re using renewable electricity from BC Hydro, which is mostly hydro and wind power—that’s a low carbon density. Those two steps combined make the end product low carbon.”

A unique set of properties found only in the Peace region will enable the Victoria-based company to combine several established technologies in a unique way, which together could potentially make the plant the cleanest gas processor in the world.

First, vast amounts of natural gas available in Northern B.C. will provide BFE with the raw material it will need to produce its low carbon gasoline.

Second, Northern B.C.’s abundant clean energy sources in the form of wind and water hydro electricity will be used to power the plant instead of burning gas or coal.

“We’re the first ones to use renewable electricity to drive the plant,” Puetter said. “The more electricity you put into the process, the less fossil fuel we need and the more renewable it becomes, and that’s pretty special.”

The third factor is the low-carbon fuel standards in B.C., Oregon and California; markets in which Puetter and BFE hope to find ready customers for their B.C.-produced low carbon gasoline.

“So what we’re doing, we’re making a substitute for conventional gasoline right here in the Peace region, that is not only made in B.C. but is also much cleaner. That’s different from anywhere else . . . we’re actually making an end product out of natural gas.”

It is a chemical process which BFE’s calls “deliberate and elegant”; reform the natural gas to “synthesis gas”, convert that to methanol, then dehydrate and process it further, using catalysts, into gasoline, the end product.

The methanol-to-gasoline process is well-known and licensed from Exxon Mobile, Puetter says, but the uses of hydrogen and oxygen in their technology are novel and are what will make the plant globally significant as the world seeks greener ways to produce and process fuels.

“We end up having gasoline that meets all gasoline specifications but has a lower carbon intensity than any other gasoline made from oil. The biggest thing these days is to export as LNG (liquefied natural gas),” Puetter said.

“We’re making it right there into a gasoline that we can use right here in B.C. That process will make this gas into the cleanest gasoline on earth. No other gasoline will be cleaner.”

But it doesn’t stop there.

A gas processing plant of this proposed size will produce vast amounts of heat energy; this energy will be given freely to First Nations groups who will build large-scale food producing greenhouses.

The greenhouses will be used to grow organic produce which will be exported around western and northern Canada, Puetter says, with profits being returned to the First Nations groups themselves; BFE has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with West Moberly First Nations 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 WMFN’s traditional territory.”

Puetter also extends this opportunity to people at large; “we have lots and lots of energy,” he said. “We’re looking at this as a community service, to enhance our social license. What does it do for society as a whole, what does it do for the community, for the province, what does it do for Canada?”

“If you look at other plants running all around the world, they just burn stuff off or evaporate it, because it’s the easy way to do it, you don’t have to deal with it. But I think environmentally speaking, that’s irresponsible. You want to use whatever you can, it’s use and reuse as much as you can, rather than just waste.”

“We’re trying to get away from this end of the pipe mentality.”

Finally, another byproduct of the plant’s production processes, nitrogen, can be used to reduce water-waste which occurs with much natural gas extraction.

Nitrogen can replace the water used in fracking; Puetter explains, and it is not as harmful to the environment as it evaporates after use.

“It’s a very benign way of reducing the environmental impact of fracking,” Puetter said.

It’s taken eight years to get the project to the point it’s at now, with the land secured and awaiting permitting and “other aspects” before making the “final investment decision at the end of the year.” (According to a press release.)

But support has been growing, Puetter says, from political and environmental proponents alike.

“The provincial government is very supportive, I had discussions with the Official Opposition, with the Green Party . . . we also have talked to environmental groups and have gotten very positive feedback,” Puetter said.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that today, with this technology we have today, it can be done economically and environmentally responsibly, it’s very exciting to be part of it.

“We’re trying to demonstrate that today, with this technology we have today, it can be done economically and environmentally responsibly, it’s very exciting to be part of it.

“What we’re hoping to do as this is built and running, is that others will do similar things. We hope to be a catalyst, that we’re not the only ones to do this. We’re perhaps the first ones to do it, but we’re hoping that others will do similar things because that’s going to be good for the planet.”

Stacy Thomas