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Methanex willing to move plants globally to secure gas supplies
Methanex, the world’s largest methanol producer, is increasingly willing to move its plants from one country to another to take advantage of natural gas supplies, and could one day choose to move its plant from New Zealand, according to a report Friday in the National Business Review.
In remarks during a panel session at a petroleum conference in Wellington, New Zealand manager Harvey Weake said the dismantling of a Methanex plant in Chile and its transfer to a site in Louisiana was part of a plan where Methanex “will be taking a more flexible approach on equipment, to moving it around”. That could include New Zealand “if we have to”, he said. However, there is no imminent likelihood of such a decision.
Methanex is a major producer of methanol in Trinidad and Tobago, operating a two-plant facility at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate that has a production capacity of 2.7 million tonnes of methanol per year. making this an important production centre in the organization’s network.
The Methanex-owned Titan Plant has an annual production capacity of 900,000 tonnes, while the Atlas Plant, which is a joint venture between Methanex Corporation (63.1 per cent) and BP Trinidad and Tobago LLC (36.9 per cent), has an annual production capacity of 1.8 million tonnes per year.
Methanex has been reinvesting heavily in its two methanol production chains at Motonui, as new supplies of competitively priced natural gas have come to market in New Zealand, after winding back local production in the early 2000s, when gas supplies tightened and prices rose. It is also considering reopening its mothballed plant nearby at Waitara as the outlook for gas supplies in New Zealand suggests several years of low-cost gas are becoming available.
The conference session was chaired by Edison Research International’s New Zealand head John Kidd, who described how natural gas had risen to as high as $9 a Gigajoule in the early 2000s, but had dropped to around $5 per GJ in recent times as electricity generators started switching out of gas to produce electricity and using coal, geothermal and wind energy. Whereas electricity generators were using around 100 petajoules of gas annually a decade ago, that had fallen to 40 PJs in the last year, with Methanex taking up the slack as new gas fields were brought on stream.
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