methanol plants

A view of Proman’s complex comprising four methanol plants, on the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.

PROMAN, T&T’s largest downstream petrochemical operator, says the company’s main product, methanol, has a role in assisting T&T in its decarbonisation agenda.

Speaking at last week’s virtual Energy Chamber conference on the topic of natural gas in decarbonisation, Anita Gajadhar, managing director of Proman Marketing Logistics and Shipping explained that methanol has a role in assisting T&T and the world in achieving decarbonisation targets.

The ambition is achievable, said Gajadhar.

She observed that with T&T, as one of the leading exporters of methanol globally, is positioned to build on its strategic location in the Atlantic basin, and its methanol production expertise, to establish itself as the future methanol bunkering hub for the Americas.

“However, this is only achievable through the optimisation of the natural gas value chain to ensure global competitiveness and to allow for reinvestment of capital into green initiatives, which we view as central to Trinidad and Tobago’s economic recovery and long-term future. We understand that the Gas Strategies report, which was initiated one year ago, is currently being reviewed by the Government, and we look forward, as an industry, to getting its findings,” she said.

She said methanol has an important role in decarbonisation, as it is rich in hydrogen, easy to manage, inexpensive to store and transport, and viewed as having a low carbon pathway when derived from natural gas.

“Green methanol is also gaining momentum globally, especially in its use as a marine fuel. Green methanol can be produced in two forms: firstly, as e-methanol, when derived using hydrogen from renewable electricity and CO2 or as bio-methanol, when produced from sustainable biomass,” she said.

“To expand a bit on our potential projects in Trinidad, we are currently engaged in discussions with the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the proposed bio-methanol plant and are awaiting final approvals. The plant will be similar to our Varennes Carbon Recycling Plant in Quebec requiring up to 1,550 tonnes per day of waste with the potential to produce 200,000 tonnes of bio-methanol.

“Regarding our proposed use of methanol in Trinidad and Tobago’s gasoline pool, the current gasoline standards are being reviewed by the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards, with the possible blending and the logistical infrastructure also under evaluation. As a leading methanol exporting country, Proman is still of the view that a five per cent blend of methanol into the gasoline pool offers Trinidad and Tobago and potentially the Caribbean with significant savings. This simple blend can assist in reducing Trinidad and Tobago’s gasoline imports and consequently the country’s forex exposure, offering potential financial savings of over TT$70 million per year. The use of methanol will also reduce the country’s carbon emissions footprint due to methanol’s properties as a clean burning fuel, therefore supporting Trinidad and Tobago’s overall target to reduce its carbon emissions by 15 per cent, by 2030,” she said.

Marine fuel

But the initiative which the company has seen the most progress is in the use of methanol as a marine fuel.

She said Proman has partnered with one of the largest vessel owners in the world, Stena Bulk AB to jointly build three methanol dual fuel engine vessels.

She noted that the shipping industry is responsible for three per cent of global emissions annually and the International Maritime Organisation has set clear emission reduction targets for shipping.

“Methanol is a proven and widely available pathway fuel,” she said.

She noted that when compared to other alternative fuels in the industry, methanol meets the environmental criteria and is safe to handle and readily available in over 122 ports globally. It is also cost competitive when considering the capital expenditure for the engine conversion and for methanol consumption as a fuel.

Going green

She observed that Proman’s business is based on the conversion of natural gas to petrochemical-derived products, with the company owning ten million tonnes of installed chemical production capacity in Trinidad, the United States and Oman.

“Not only are we the second largest producer of methanol in the world, but we are also a significant player in the fertiliser industry with our Ammonia and Urea Ammonium Nitrate assets,” she said.

“As the world shifts to a “Greener” Future with major regions like the United States and European Union targeting net zero greenhouse gas emission by 2050 Proman is actively leveraging our operational expertise and deep industrial knowledge to capitalise on the transition to a greener economy, via our investments in innovation, strategic partnerships with external stakeholders and the promotion of methanol as a clean alternative energy. At our methanol plants in Point Lisas, Proman already utilises CO2 from both our own ammonia assets, and neighbouring ammonia plants to produce low carbon intensity methanol,” Gajadhar said.

She noted that Proman was engaging in a study with The University of the West Indies to examine the potential of a biogas supply chain for T&T.

“The multi-phase collaborative project will identify viable local sources of waste for an anaerobic digestion project and will examine how these technologies and resources could be integrated into Trinidad and Tobago’s wider energy supply chain,” she said.

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