• Climate & Clean Energy
  • Fossil Fuels


Amidst strong opposition and legal defeats, developers end pursuit of world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery


In a stunning climate victory, Northwest Innovation Works (NWIW), backers of acontroversial fossil fuel processing and export proposal in Kalama, Wash., officially abandoned its fracked gas refinery and pipeline proposal, terminating the company’s lease with the Port of Kalama. The decision comes after years of local and regional activism to stop the massive fracked gas refinery, resulting in a series of legal defeats. In early 2021, Washington state denied a key permit, citing the refinery’s significant climate and shoreline impacts. That decision followed state and federal court rejections of other permits for failing to fully analyze the project’s harm on climate, water quality, and the public interest. 

“After many years of fighting dirty coal, oil, and fracked gas, we are looking forward to a clean energy future in Washington,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director with Columbia Riverkeeper

“Projects like this simply cannot go forward as we fight to save our climate,” said Kristen Boyles, senior attorney with Earthjustice. “The climate-killing emissions from this project would have overwhelmed Washington, and we must keep drawing the line and saying no.” 

In December 2020, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) released its final study on the massive fracked gas-to-methanol refinery. Ecology determined that the fossil fuel processing facility would have a significant negative impact on our climate.

Ecology found the greenhouse gas emissions from the Kalama facility itself would be significant: It would be one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in Washington (including upstream emissions, 4.8 million metric tons a year). Only one emissions source in Washington produces more greenhouse gas emissions than NWIW’s lifecycle emissions—a power plant in Centralia that is required by law to stop burning coal by 2025.

“Today’s victory for people and the environment is the culmination of persistent opposition of communities across Washington who refuse to accept harmful gas industry expansion. NWIW has misled the public for years that this project could be good for the climate and the economy, but what harms the environment harms us all,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Environmental Council / Washington Conservation Voters. “Washington state is leading bold climate progress so we are committed to investing in a just and clean economy because projects that endanger our health, safety, and climate like fracked gas-to-methanol have no place in our futures. Period.”

“Kalama was a disaster waiting to happen, so this is a crucial victory for our climate and the people and wildlife along the Columbia River,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need to move away from these climate bombs that would lock us into an unsustainable future and pollute the air and water we all need to survive.” 

“There’s no place for the world’s largest fracked gas-to-methanol refinery in Washington’s clean energy future, and this disastrous proposal should never even have been on the table,” said Sierra Club Campaign Representative Stephanie Hillman. “The Kalama methanol refinery would have subjected local communities to unacceptable health and safety risks, as well as spouting enormous amounts of climate pollution, and we’re glad to see it terminated.”

The victory over NWIW marks the latest chapter in a decade of victories over fossil fuel development in the Pacific Northwest. Following years of activism and legal actions, Tribal Nations, communities, and nonprofits defeated the nation’s largest coal and oil-by-rail terminals, both proposed along the Columbia. Coalitions including Power Past Fracked GasStand Up to Oil, and Power Past Coal led victories over a dozen fracked gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, coal export terminals, and oil-by-rail developments proposed in the Pacific Northwest. 



Northwest Innovation Works proposed to build methanol refineries at Kalama, Wash., and Port Westward, Ore., to take advantage of the region’s cheap fracked gas (methane), electricity, and water. The refineries would convert stunning volumes of fracked gas into methanol for export to make plastics or fuel. Each methanol refinery could consume 270 million cubic feet of fracked gas per day, more than all other industries in Washington combined. Methane, collected by fracking, is a potent greenhouse gas. New studies show that fracking for methane gas is a major threat to our climate because methane escapes into the atmosphere from gas wells and pipelines.

Columbia Riverkeeper works to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. 

Washington Environmental Council is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy organization that has been driving positive change to solve Washington’s most critical environmental challenges since 1967 with the mission to protect, restore, and sustain Washington’s environment for all.

The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. 

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to protecting endangered species and wild places.