Our Approach: CO₂ Emissions and Energy Use in Manufacturing

Our operations generate emissions when fuel is consumed during the methanol production process, particularly during the reforming stage. Multiple factors determine the intensity of the emissions, including the age and reliability of the plant (and their impact on efficiency), type of reforming technology, fuel composition, age of catalyst, heat integration, and source of power. As a result, our overall emission rates can vary from year to year.

A reliable source of natural gas is critical for making methanol, and for efficient production. It is also critical that we use this resource efficiently. When we maximize the yield of methanol per gigajoule (GJ) of natural gas, our production is improved and emissions relative to production are subsequently reduced.

Why this matters

We have an ethical responsibility to minimize our environmental impact and to protect our communities. We need to adhere to government and industry regulations and be respectful and mindful of the concerns of our stakeholders.

Likewise, our business operations, suppliers, and customers could be impacted by climate-change concerns such as water shortages, changing sea levels, changing storm patterns and intensities, and changing temperature levels. This is another reason why it’s important that we contribute to minimizing environmental impacts from climate change. (Please see our Methanex 2018 Annual Report, Climate Change and Environmental Regulation, for updates on existing or pending greenhouse gas legislation applicable to our business.)

How we are managing it

In accordance with the Responsible Care Ethic and Principles for Sustainability, we take preventive action to protect the environment and innovate for safer processes that conserve resources.

One of the most significant ways we can minimize our emissions is by ensuring the reliability of our production facilities and the efficiency of production processes. This way, we reduce energy use as well as emissions of carbon dioxide (CO₂), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. All new plants are built to high standards for energy efficiency.

Natural-gas combustion represents our main source of CO₂ emissions. We rigorously monitor and optimize our natural-gas efficiency to account for changing conditions in the reforming and conversion stages. Gas efficiency is monitored daily by measuring the quality and amount of natural gas used to produce a tonne of methanol (i.e., GJ/MT). If the rate of efficiency drops, we investigate the cause and make necessary corrections to improve gas efficiency. We also monitor catalyst evaluation reports on a routine basis and adjust operating parameters to ensure optimal gas conversion to methanol.

At our Medicine Hat facility, CO₂ captured from a neighbouring industrial facility is injected into the reactor to improve production efficiency, converting the waste CO₂ into methanol. (Carbon dioxide is a synthesis gas required to make methanol and is normally produced from our natural gas feedstock.)

These efficiency measures simultaneously reduce CO₂ emissions, conserve natural resources, and enable us to address environmental regulations and concerns about climate change.

Our Approach: CO₂ Emissions and Energy Use in Marine Shipping

When we ship methanol (via Waterfront Shipping ) to our customers worldwide, we generate emissions from the consumption of fuel.

Why this matters

In accordance with the Responsible Care Ethic and Principles for Sustainability, we take action to protect the environment and innovate for safer processes that conserve resources. Improving the energy efficiency of marine shipping reduces CO₂ emissions and conserves natural resources, enabling us to address regulations and concerns about climate change.

How we are managing it

We maximize the use of our fleet of vessels by arranging another suitable cargo on the return voyage (backhaul of cargo) after delivering methanol to its intended destination. The backhaul cargo is usually a clean petroleum product, such as gasoline or diesel, with similar characteristics to methanol. By carrying cargo during both legs of the voyage and using fuel as efficiently as possible, we minimize the fuel costs and CO₂ emissions intensity of transporting cargo.

As part of our ongoing commitment to safe, responsible, and reliable transport of cargo, we continually replace older vessels with newer, more efficient vessels through our fleet growth and renewal program. Waterfront’s fleet includes seven dual-fuel vessels (with four more dual-fuel vessels to come in 2019), all of which have greater energy efficiency features and are the first of their kind to run on methanol.

Our Approach: NOx and SOx Emissions

We generate NOx and SOx emissions when fuel is consumed during the methanol production process, and when we ship methanol to our customers worldwide.

Our primary source of NOx emissions in manufacturing is from the steam methane reformer, an essential part of the methanol production process. The steam methane reformer converts process natural gas (mostly methane and steam) into hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. NOx is formed during this combustion process and the exhaust gas is released through the flue-gas stack of the reformer.

SOx emissions are dependent on the hydrogen sulfide content of natural gas consumed during methanol production. Natural gas used by Methanex contains very little hydrogen sulfide (<0.2%), so our SOx emissions are considered low.

Why this matters

NOx emissions can accumulate in the atmosphere and result in acid rain or ground-level ozone (smog), particularly in areas where there is a lot of industrial activity or other NOx-emitting sources. SOx emissions, when in the presence of a catalyst such as nitrogen dioxide (NOx) that is already present in the atmosphere, can form acid rain.

How we are managing it

As noted earlier, we ensure our production facilities and processes are reliable and efficient, which is one of the best ways of minimizing emissions. In areas with air quality issues or regulatory requirements, we use two methods of reducing NOx emissions:

  • Low-NOx burners, which prevent the formation of NOx in the reformer (greater than 50% NOx reduction)
  • Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) units, a scrubber system that removes NOx from the exhaust gas of the reformer unit (99% NOx removal rate)

Our Approach: Volatile Organic Carbon (VOC) Emissions

When methanol is in storage or being transferred, under certain conditions some of the vapours may be released to atmosphere. These vapours are known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Why this matters

Emissions of VOCs to the outdoors are often regulated, especially in heavily industrialized or urbanized locations, to prevent the formation of ozone, a constituent of photochemical smog. Many VOCs form ground-level ozone by “reacting” with sources of oxygen molecules such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) in the atmosphere, in the presence of sunlight.

How we are managing it

We use methanol vapour-recovery systems on storage tanks and in loading areas when there are air quality issues or applicable regulatory requirements. Leak detection and repair programs further enable us to minimize the emission of methanol vapours throughout the plant.

Our Approach: Water Management

Water is a feedstock resource for manufacturing methanol. It is essential for production processes such as natural gas reforming, steam generation to drive compressors, heat transfer, and cooling processes.

Why this matters

Water is a resource needed for methanol production, but it’s also a resource for the communities and ecosystems in which we operate. This is why we focus on using water as efficiently as possible and protecting aquatic ecosystems through effective wastewater treatment and spill-prevention systems.

Depending on the location, our plants use either fresh water or sea water. Because fresh water is a shared natural resource with our communities and environment, we put the bulk of our efforts into conserving and protecting freshwater sources.

How we are managing it

Our water stewardship standard guides our decision-making and program development. It focuses on:

  • Monitoring water risks and addressing impacts to communities, production, and suppliers
  • Conserving water by minimizing, reusing, and recycling, and by closely monitoring water use associated with energy consumption
  • Protecting water sources by reducing wastewater and contaminants of concern
  • Monitoring data specific to water use, water quality, and effluent discharge
  • Collaborating with local communities to invest in water stewardship initiatives

Throughout our plants, we conserve water by recovering waste steam and water, which are then reused in the production process. We also conduct regular groundwater monitoring to ensure that groundwater is not contaminated.

In accordance with regulations, all wastewater from our operations is treated and analyzed before being discharged. We go beyond regulatory requirements and set a stricter internal leading-indicator target for the performance of our treatment systems. This gives us advance warning of any potential issues with wastewater systems.

Our Approach: Waste Management

The largest quantity of waste we generate occurs during major maintenance, plant refurbishments, and servicing work. This waste includes construction-related materials such as scrap metal, wood waste, piping and vessel insulation, cardboard, and other packaging waste and containers.

Why this matters

It is important that we operate in a way that minimizes the use of resources and the amount of waste that is disposed.

How we are managing it

Each Methanex location monitors the volume of waste that is generated and diverted from disposal to recycling/reclamation facilities. Over the last few years, we’ve been steadily decreasing the volume of hazardous waste we generate, while recycling as much hazardous waste as possible.

We focus on critical recycling measures and ensure that any waste generated is stored appropriately and disposed of by qualified waste-management companies. We also track data about the waste we generate, so we can identify opportunities to reduce it through recycling, reusing, or reducing at source. All of our facilities have recycling programs in place; these include recycling for paper, cardboard, beverage bottles, and petroleum products.

Our Approach: Spill Prevention and Response

Of the hazardous materials that could spill at a manufacturing site, the most significant are methanol, petroleum products from machinery (e.g., fuel, lubricating oils), and water-treatment chemicals.

Why this matters

When compared to substances such as conventional gasoline and diesel fuel (and many of their constituent elements, such as benzene), methanol is safer and more environmentally benign. Since methanol occurs naturally in the environment and is readily biodegradable, methanol spills are unlikely to accumulate in the groundwater, surface water, air (as vapour), or soil.

However, a large release of methanol has the potential to adversely impact the immediate environment, depending on the nature and quantity of the release.

How we are managing it

To prevent spills, we proactively conduct plant maintenance and inspections, train our employees on environmental management, and implement process-safety management (PSM) programs. The primary goal of PSM is to prevent the loss of primary containment of substances that are harmful to human health, safety, and the environment. If spills occur, we clean up, monitor, and analyze them to identify and resolve root causes. In addition, in the event of a large spill, we have crisis and emergency-response teams in place to mitigate any health, safety, and environmental impacts.

A key aspect of our spill preparedness and response program is ensuring that local response organizations are prepared to handle a methanol-related transportation incident. In both Canada and the U.S., we follow comprehensive voluntary chemical industry standards that support transportation hazard management. As part of our commitment to stewardship best practices, we are meeting the intent of these standards in the other regions and countries where we do business.

We also work closely with our community advisory panels (see the Community Chapter) to ensure that community concerns about potential methanol incidents are addressed.