INSTITUTE, W.Va. — The California-based company that plans to operate two methanol plants in the Kanawha Valley will use plants in other parts of the world that are no longer in operation.
US Methanol CEO Brad Gunn tells MetroNews the plants are currently in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Central Europe.
“We went and bought two existing methanol plants that are in other parts of the world and we’re taking them apart as we speak, transporting them here and putting them back together,” Gunn said.
US Methanol and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the initial plant Tuesday. It will be located along state Route 25 in Institute close to an existing Dow Chemical plant. The site has all the company needs, Gunn said.
“There’s an existing (natural gas) pipeline there. There’s a major pipeline that runs east and west that we’re basically taping into. We feel confident that we’ve got enough gas to be here for 25, 35, 40 years,” Gunn said.
Using existing plants will allow US Methanol to have the plants rebuilt and begin production within 14 months. The Institute plant is expected to begin production by next July. The plant will take natural gas and methane along with steam to produce methanol which is used in the production of resin,carpets, plastics in water bottles, other plastics and many more products, Gunn said.
“Most people would touch things made from methanol several times a day and not even know it,” Gunn said.
The company has already sold out the 10-year supply deals it has available for the Institute plant and its currently working on selling out similar deals for a second plant to be located nearby, Gunn said.
The construction is scheduled to begin in November in Institute and employ 300 people. The plant will create 60 permanent jobs that will pay between $55,000 and $75,000. Gunn predicted his company would have no problem finding workers in the Kanawha Valley.
“The institutional knowledge of running plants is just phenomenal here. Every time I turn around there is somebody who has an incredible amount of talent and experience in running these so that is a tremendous plus for us,” Gunn said.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he’s been impressed with US Methanol during the discussions over the past few months.
“This is real and it’s going to happen soon,” Carper predicted.
Fellow commissioner Dave Hardy likes the private investment.
“This is well-funded private equity with no government money involved. When a private equity group votes its dollars to invest in this valley that means that they think the business plan is solid,” Hardy said.
Liberty ONE will be US Methanol’s first ever plant. Gunn said he and his business partner have been in the “oil and gas world” where they’ve been part of hundreds of millions dollars of products. He said they don’t have direct knowledge of operating a methanol plant but the company is “bringing in world-class people that do.” The plant manager in the Rio plant will take a similar job at Institute.
US Methanol spent 13 months looking for a site seeking answers to a number of questions, according to Gunn.
“Where can we get (natural) gas to efficiently? Where can we get talent to both build and operate the plant? What’s the proximity to customers ultimately? Where we landed here in West Virginia seemed to check all of those boxes for us and we are delighted,” Gunn said.
A methanol plant will neither be the size nor scope of cracker plants that have been often talked about with the development of the Marcellus Shale, but it’s a business model that can be repeated several times in the state, Gunn said.
“Small is sweet. Small is beautiful. We can locate these plants, have them up in running in about 12 to 14 months, we think we have multiple opportunities to put several plants in this state,” Gunn said.