Our Approach: Product Stewardship
As the world’s largest producer and supplier of methanol, Methanex is committed to supporting the safe handling and safe use of methanol. We have six production facilities and over 60 contracted terminal and storage facilities throughout the world. We distribute methanol to our customers via ship, barge, road, pipeline, and rail to major international markets in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and South America.
Our global supply chain is supported by the world’s largest fleet of methanol ocean tankers, which is managed by Waterfront Shipping, a wholly owned Methanex subsidiary. In North America, we send over 10,000 shipments of methanol to customers by rail every year. Globally, we load more than 30,000 trucks and 600 barges annually with methanol.
Why this matters
The distribution of methanol raises potential safety hazards if improperly handled and stored, as well as potential environmental impacts if spills occur. (See the Environment chapter for more information.) This is why we are committed to ensuring its safe use.
How we are managing it
By minimizing risks at critical points in the methanol value-chain—product transportation, distribution, storage, and use—we are doing our part to protect the public, the environment, and communities.
We do this through a variety of internal and external health, safety, and environmental initiatives that are all guided by our Global Integrated Management System. We actively work with business partners and industry associations to improve the stewardship of products over their life cycle and share technical and safety information with stakeholders at seminars and conferences, and in online education initiatives.
Each year, we communicate about the risks and benefits of our operations and products with approximately 2,000 individuals worldwide, and we reach many more through our train-the-trainer model. As a member of the Methanol Institute, we also participate in numerous groups and initiatives to ensure the safe handling of methanol and its derivatives across the global distribution chain.
In conducting our business, we are accountable and responsive to the public. We respond to community concerns about our products and services, have regular and proactive engagement with stakeholders, maintain up-to-date safety information, and provide product information in an appropriate and timely manner.
As we expand methanol into energy applications, we are mindful of the need to recognize the different risks that come with these new markets. We continue to evolve our Product Stewardship program to support the safe, sustainable development of these new end markets and their specific needs.
Our Approach: Marine Safety
Waterfront Shipping takes practical precautions to minimize risk to people, the environment, and the communities in countries in which we operate. We work with our contractors, ship owners, and their ship-management companies to follow industry best practices and comply with all applicable regulations.
We go above and beyond regulations with our Responsible Care programs for shipping. These efforts include:
- Vessel safety visits
- Chemical Distribution Institute’s Marine (CDI-Marine) audits and inspections
- Methanol safety training for ship crews
- Training on nitrogen safety, to mitigate asphyxiation risk (nitrogen is used to remove the risk of fire and explosion in the tanks)
- Environmental compliance and energy efficiency
- Best practice sharing within the fleet and the industry through the Methanol Group
Every year, Waterfront Shipping provides customized training programs for crew members working aboard the Waterfront fleet. This includes training on safe methanol handling, as well as nitrogen awareness and asphyxiation risks.
To verify compliance with all regulations and best practices, all ocean-going ships are required to complete an annual inspection based on CDI-Marine protocol. In addition, all contracted barge operations are audited to verify the safe transportation of methanol on inland rivers.
Our internal Safety Visit Program, conducted annually on all ships, is a review of 21 areas of on-board safety management and people practices (e.g., crew morale, motivation, leadership, safety culture). Results of the visits help to determine the fleet’s safety rating; they also provide a benchmark of safety practices and help ship-management companies improve their safety and environmental systems.
Our in-region barge operations are not owned or operated by Waterfront Shipping. However, all contracted companies have successfully passed our safety assessment protocol to enhance their Responsible Care performance when transporting methanol along inland rivers.
Find out more about Waterfront Shipping’s fleet statistics here.
Our Approach: Terminal Safety
We request our contracted terminals (used to store our methanol) to undergo the Chemical Distribution Institute’s Terminal (CDI-Terminal) inspections by a third-party inspector every three years. In some cases, they are requested to do a self-assessment based on CDI-Terminal requirements. This includes essential elements and best practices in the areas of safety, environmental protection, social responsibility, and sustainability for chemical storage and transfer. Currently, all of our contracted terminals participate in the CDI-Terminal inspection program.
After an inspection is performed, we work with the terminals to prioritize the areas that need improvement. We also encourage other delivery locations that are not contracted by Methanex to participate in CDI-Terminal inspections.
Our Approach: Road and Rail Safety
Methanex voluntarily subscribes to the principles and ethics of Responsible Care Ethic and Principles for Sustainability through the Canadian Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Two key initiatives of product stewardship under Responsible Care are the Transportation Emergency Assistance Program (TEAP) and Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response program (TRANSCAER).
Methanex has incorporated the TEAP and TRANSCAER programs into standards and programs that are applied globally across our organization. The TEAP and TRANSCAER programs focus on: training and community awareness about the safe handling of methanol for key stakeholders and emergency responders; risk assessments along the route our product travels; and assurance that the modes of storage and transportation of methanol (and the products used to manufacture methanol) are safe.
All of the tank cars in our railcar fleet undergo mandatory regulatory inspections every 10 years, which includes a thorough review of tanks and valves, to verify that all equipment meets legislated standards. Our North America Railcar Preventative Maintenance program complements this protocol and exceeds minimum regulatory mandates by requiring our own internal inspections every five years. We are recognized annually by railroads for our safety stewardship practices.
Our road safety program includes:
- Audits and assessments of our land-based carriers/haulers on a three- to five-year cycle using a Methanex-appropriate protocol (i.e., the CDI-Terminal program, the Safety and Quality Assessment System [SQAS] in Europe, the Road Safety Quality Assessment System [RSQAS] in China, and Asociación Gremial de Industriales Químicos [ASIQUIM] in Chile).
- Truck methanol-handling safety seminars and workshops.
- Truck company qualification and selection program.
- Transportation-route risk assessments for motor carrier routes from producing locations, as well as assessments of newly proposed routes.
- A road “spot test” program to assess the performance of truck drivers. Our fleet-management standard sets stringent preventative maintenance requirements for our railcars, incorporating best practices and lessons learned from past incidents. In many cases, these requirements exceed those of industry.
Our Approach: Responsible Care Advocacy
We provide Responsible Care seminars for our supply-chain partners, customers, terminals, surveyors, distributors, carriers, and emergency services, as well as local and/or regional authorities. Our objective is to share Responsible Care practices and initiatives, health and safety best practices, and lessons we've learned, focusing on the methanol supply chain and dangerous goods in general. We host over 40 seminars and workshops every year, engaging an average of 200 organizations and over 1,000 individuals. We continue to expand our program reach as we expand our business to new application markets and business partners.
To help customers train their own employees and interact with their communities, we provide technical information on methanol, available free on our website. These materials are provided in multiple languages and include material safety data sheets, a safe handling guide and video, and other educational materials. We also conduct joint site visits, partnering with our customers and distributors to help their downstream customers improve their methanol safety standards.