PORTLAND — A Chinese-backed venture that includes the British petroleum company BP proposes two plants along the lower Columbia River to distill methanol from natural gas for use in making plastics and rubber.
Each plant would cost $1 billion and employ about 120 people. They would be at the Port of Kalama and at Port Westward on the Oregon side of the river at Clatskanie in Columbia County.
The proposal comes from Northwest Innovation Works, a joint venture between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and BP. Other investors include H&Q Asia Pacific, an Asian private-equity firm.
The plants would get natural gas by pipeline and ship methanol to Dalian, China for processing into olefins, which are building blocks for consumer products ranging from laptops to water bottles, said Greg Peden, a partner at Gallatin Public Affairs, a Portland firm representing the venture.
Peden said the plants would be the first of their kind in the Northwest and could expand in second phases.
About 1,000 union construction workers would build each of the plants, which could start production early in 2018, he said.
Each factory would occupy a site of about 80 acres. The plants would require state emissions permits. Peden said.
Northwest Innovation Works executives have spoken with state officials and will be "looking at the options" for tax breaks, Peden said.