County of Grande Prairie Reeve Bob Marshall says he is disappointed with the recent announcement of the cancellation of a $4 billion methanol plant. 

The gas plant promised jobs and economic benefits, but Nauticol Energy Ltd. announced earlier this month it would not be moving forward with the project.

“I was really hoping (it) would go ahead,” said Marshall. 

“That (methanol plant) would have meant a huge economic boom to not only the county but the region as a whole.”

Nauticol’s plant, announced in 2018, was to be built near the International Paper Canada pulp mill south of Grande Prairie. 

Nauticol president and CEO Mark Tonner told CBC News the pandemic, increased costs and delays contributed to its cancellation.

“So these obviously include enduring two years of a global pandemic and the upheaval in the capital markets,” he told the CBC.

“There’s significantly less appetite for risk and uncertainty compared to when we launched the project.”

Town & Country News requested an interview with Tonner, but he was unavailable before press time. 

The county currently owns the land where the proposed plant was to be built, but Nauticol holds a first right of refusal, explained Marshall. He said that if another company were interested in the spot, Nauticol would still have the opportunity to buy the land first. 

He noted the first right of refusal will expire in late 2024. 

“We haven’t had any inquiries at this point, so that’ll be one thing that our economic development team will be looking at (if) there are any other opportunities (for the land).”

The reeve noted he believes there are other options if Nauticol doesn’t return to the site for another project.

Marshall said the zoning on the proposed site is under the county’s rural industrial direct control, allowing for many different industrial applications. 

The county purchased the land from the province, which cost “significant dollars,” said Marshall. 

Road improvements near the proposed plant will go ahead, as other industries use the road, and repairs are still very needed, said Marshall. 

“There’s significant work that needs to be done to improve that road.”

He said the approach leading into the plant site will not move forward at this time.

The province said in 2018 the plant would create 5,000 construction jobs and 1,260 permanent direct and indirect jobs, which would equate to over 35 years of economic benefits in the region. 

The facility was expected to produce 3.4 million tonnes of net-zero blue methanol annually from natural gas. 

Blue methanol has a growing need in the marine industry to reduce maritime emissions. Three years after announcing the proposed facility near Grande Prairie, Nauticol announced a joint venture with Singapore’s Fortrec in 2021. Fortrec operates one of the world’s largest marine fueling terminals. 

When announced in 2018, the South Peace facility was estimated at a cost of $2 billion. As months passed, the estimate climbed to $4 billion as plans were altered to include measures to decrease the plant’s water intake and carbon emissions. 

By March 2021, Nauticol had also signed a deal with Enhance to work collaboratively to capture one million tonnes of CO2 from the proposed plant.

Potential for the project was promising; Town & Country News reported in 2019 that the province stated in February of 2019 it would support the project with $80 million in royalty credits.

The Nauticol website and phones have all since closed, and the province’s Alberta Major Projects website says the project was cancelled on Feb. 7 with the potential for a smaller project on the planned site in the future.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 16, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Canada's National Observer   Ottawa, Ontario

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