West Virginia environmental regulators are giving anyone interested an opportunity to weigh in on an application to build a $350 million natural gas-to-methanol facility in Pleasants County, although they’ve already made a preliminary determination to issue a permit for the facility.
The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality will hold a public meeting virtually at 6 p.m. Tuesday to get public input about the application from West Virginia Methanol, Inc., which applied in November to construct the plant off Route 2 between Belmont and St. Marys near the Ohio River on the site of the former Cabot Corporation carbon black manufacturing facility.
The facility would produce about 1,000 tons of methanol from natural gas daily, and the company said in a revised permit application submitted last month that it plans to start construction by May 15, pending receipt of a construction permit from state environmental regulators and other required permits.
The facility would consist of three methanol plants with a maximum production capacity of nearly 400,000 tons of methanol per year that would use an average of 36 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. The first unit is slated to start up two years after construction starts, with the final unit starting up six months later, according to West Virginia Methanol’s application. The site would also include eight 375,000-gallon methanol storage tanks and a ninth tank of the same size for venting, plus truck and railcar loadouts each using two 400 gallon-per-minute methanol loading racks.
West Virginia Methanol noted in its permit application that it would operate all above-ground storage tanks in compliance with state tank regulations.
Division of Air Quality engineer Joseph Kessler wrote in an evaluation of the company’s application that the information provided in it indicates the site would be compliant with state and federal air quality regulations and recommended that the division make a preliminary determination to issue the permit.
The proposed facility has the potential to emit 91 tons of carbon monoxide, 92 tons of nitrogen oxides (poisonous, highly reactive gases), 54 combined tons of three different kinds of particulate matter, and 11 combined tons of the known or probable human carcinogens formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzene and 1,3-butadiene, according to West Virginia Methanol’s permit application.
No air quality impacts modeling analysis was performed since the proposed facility’s estimated maximum emissions are less than applicability thresholds that would define the facility as “major” under a state legislative rule adopted in accordance with the federal Clean Air Act, Kessler’s evaluation said.
The facility’s address would be 9764 South Pleasants Highway, St. Marys, WV 26170. A CSX Transportation rail corridor runs through the site parallel to the Ohio River.
Kessler did not conduct an onsite inspection of the proposed location of the facility but said the site is currently used as an area of construction equipment storage, citing Google Earth images and the last time he drove past the site in 2019.
Lars Scott, executive vice president of West Virginia Methanol, said in October that available gas supply and an ample number of users of methanol in the state and region not served by local sources attracted the company to select the Pleasants County site for what he said would be the company’s flagship facility.
“We think our plant and probably others that either we or other people will build will continue to make this a region for more and more chemical and industrial manufacturing plants, and we’re looking forward to being a part of that,” Scott said in an announcement video produced by the Governor’s Office in October.
“Isn’t it nice to think that we’re a flagship in West Virginia?” Gov. Jim Justice said.
The facility is expected to create about 30 jobs.
The Department of Environmental Protection is requiring written comments by May 7 at 5 p.m. Written comments may be emailed to Kessler at Joseph.R.Kessler@wv.gov with “West Virginia Methanol” in the subject line or mailed to Joseph Kessler, WV Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Air Quality, 601 57th St. SE, Charleston, WV 25304.
Members of the public can participate in Tuesday’s meeting online or listen via telephone. Participant pre-registration is required by 5 p.m. Tuesday and can be accessed at tinyurl.com/f5r6k8t6. The department says those without internet access who wish to register should contact Sandie Adkins (ext. 41243) or Stephanie Hammonds (ext. 41263) at 304-926-0475 by 5 p.m. Monday.