Nauticol Energy provides update to council; desire letter of support

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Nauticol Energy continues to look for financing and investment for its proposed methanol plant south of Grande Prairie.

Representatives from the company updated councillors during the Infrastructure and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday.

Rob Pockar, Chief Sustainability Officer, said the company set up a joint venture with a large commodity trading company in Singapore in late 2020 for two reasons.

“It allows us to directly market our methanol, and it gives us direct access to Asian capital,” Pockar said. “Methanol gets used as a petrochemical ingredient to make things like glue and plastics, like you see in your house and cars. That is about half the market. The other half of the market is as a clean fuel that replaces dirty fuels like coal or bunker fuel, and that is the growth part of the market.”

The entire project is estimated to cost $3 billion, with a potential for greater economic opportunities in the future.

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“By changing natural gas into methanol we dramatically increase the value of that product, which increases the economic opportunities in northwest Alberta for ourselves, for the city, and for the natural gas producers that we buy the product from,” he said.

Recently, the company decided to be a blue methanol producer, meaning it will capture CO2 and sequester it underground.

“All through the planning of this project, we had focused on minimizing the environmental impact and maximizing the local benefit,” Pockar said.“The project as designed in 2020 would have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any methanol project in the world. But we didn’t stop there.”

The company has more detailed engineering to do but feel confident enough to announce the strategy.

“We will aim to be a net-zero producer, but our goal is when we start this plant, we will have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions by a mile,” Pockar said. “We were already the lowest, but we plan on reducing those emissions by another 80 per cent.”

Previously, Grande Prairie city council was asked for a letter in support of the project but requested more information.

Pockar and Terri Ellen Sudnik, VP of External Relations, explained the need for the letter.

“Right now, a letter stating we are in the public interest is valuable for us in terms of our capital-raising ability” Pockar said. “It is important we go to international markets and be able to demonstrate that we have the support of the local communities. For an investor, that reduces the risk they worry about.”

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Bill Sommerville, VP Project Execution, also provided an update to council, stating the next two phases of the project will take nearly two years to complete.

There are a total of four phases to the project: Assess, DBM (Design Basis Memorandum), FEED (Front End Engineering and Design), and Execute.

“If I put that into the perspective of you building a new house, the DBM would be the size of my house, how many square feet, more or less what the neighbourhood is, and I am going to have a high-level cost,” Sommerville said. “Then I decide to do that. I’ve got the money, and I (will) design the house and make sure I get all the details around carpet, flooring, paint and all that sort of stuff. Then I can refine and better understand how much that house (will) cost and how long it is going to take to build.

“Once I’ve got all that stuff, I go to the bank, and I get the money, and I build the house. So, from the standpoint of how long it is going to take, with DBM and FEED, we are estimating it should take approximately 21-22 months to do those two phases.”

The project will see an estimated 5,000 construction jobs in both Grande Prairie and Edmonton, where pre-fabrication work will take place, and employing more than 200 people to operate the site when completed.

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