WOWK 13 News

1st Methanol Plant Breaks Ground in Institute

INSTITUTE- West Virginia’s Methanol Plant broke ground in Kanawha County, promising hundreds of jobs, and opportunities for the state. But environmental advocates are still concerned about the plant’s safety practices.

The first shovel of dirt moved on what will soon become the Liberty One Methanol plant, bringing big money and jobs to the area.

“Thank you so much for what you’re doing here today. It is unbelievable if you think about a $150-mil investment, 300 people on the build-out and 60 permanent great jobs,” Governor Justice explained.

Liberty One will actually be constructed from a former methanol plant in Brazil. 

“This is the first time in my lifetime, in our history where a plant is being taken apart oversees and being brought home to West Virginia,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told 13 News.

Once the pieces of the plant arrive from Brazil, Bilfinger Westcon will put the plant back together, and they hope to have it done in 9 months.

“It’s a lot like a Lego project. I mean petrochemical facilities are made up of pipes and connections and vessels- they’re all very conveniently disassembled. They don’t tend to move very often in the word, but they are actually quite mobile,” Richard Wolfli, U.S. Methanol’s Chief Operation Officer explained. 

But that’s a concern for environmental advocates who say the plant, build in 1965, is susceptible to leaks and breaks. If something goes wrong, an explosion could be like thousands of pounds TNT blowing up Institute. 

“If there is a catastrophic event at one of the tanks, if just one tank would explode- it would effect a radius of 1.5 miles,” Pam Nixon of People Concerned about Chemical Safety told 13 News.

But U.S. Methanol says safety is a priority, and the plant will get an upgrade when it arrives.

“We’re going to upgrade the facility with all the newest technology, all the newest safety features, all the newest instrumentation in the process. So we’re going to have virtually a brand new facility here in West Virginia,” Wolfli added.

U.S. Methanol hopes to have Liberty One up and running by middle of next year. It should produce about 200,000 tons of methanol a year to be sold to industries across the northeast.