Proposal to build natural gas to gasoline plant emerges

B.C. company says $1.9 billion project on former Dow property would produce 15,000 barrels of gasoline per day

A B.C.-based company says it wants to turn natural gas into 15,000 barrels of gasoline on property once owned by Dow Chemical Canada Inc.

The news follows approval by the City of Sarnia for a long-term lease of 28.3 hectares (70 acres) of land at TransAlta’s Bluewater Energy Park.

Michael Ainsworth, president of Ainsworth Energy,  said the new facility, which is expected to cost $1.9 billion to build, will first convert natural gas into methanol and then convert the methanol into gasoline.

About 75% of the plant will be used for the natural gas to methanol conversion process.

The original technology was developed some 40 years ago and used in New Zealand in the 1980s but high natural gas prices doomed that venture.

Since then, competitive prices for natural gas have made it competitive with crude oil.

Ainsworth said the business case for the new plant will rely on natural gas remaining “relatively inexpensive as compared to oil.”

Essentially, he said, the new plant’s production would be displacing fuel that is imported.

Sarnia’s plant, which Ainsworth said is similar in size and technology to a plant already operating in Asia.

Shared infrastructure available in Chemical Valley is seen by Ainsworth as particularly advantageous for this project, which would employ around 50 people after a 30-month construction.

He said the company is pursuing other projects but the Sarnia project “is our main initiative” one that Ainsworth has been pursuing for about four years.

The company has its roots in the forest products sector.

Marilyn Gladu said she first dealt with Ainsworth in her role as business director at WorleyParsons, where she worked prior to being elected Member of Parliament in 2015.

“I am pleased to see more jobs and opportunities come to Sarnia-Lambton,” said Gladu. “Our local workforce and the way the community collaborates are keys to our success in attracting such large scale projects.”

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