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Fig 1 methanol apps


Green H2 derivative: CH3OH


Methanol is a promising alternative carrier for hydrogen.  In liquid form under ambient conditions, it can be handled and distributed with exactly the same type of infrastructure thru which petrol is distributed today.  Around 98 mi tons (Mt) are produced per year, nearly all of which is produced from fossil fuels (either natural gas or coal) [IRENA, 2021].

Methanol uses


The simplest alcohol w/ the lowest carbon content, methanol is used as a precursor to other industrial chemicals, such as methyl benzoate, formaldehyde, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE - gasoline additive that reduces tailpipe air emissions), acetic acid, and also paints, cosmetics, and plastics.  Figure 1 shows worldwide methanol application.


Figure 1:  % of the worldwide methanol conversion


Methanol is an excellent hydrogen carrier fuel, packing more hydrogen in its simple alcohol molecule than can be found in hydrogen that's been compressed (350-700 bar) or liquefied (-253˚C).  It can be used as raw material for synthetic hydrocarbons: for example, thru the methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process, it is transformed into gasoline.  In addition, it can be “reformed” on-site at a fueling station to generate hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.


Fuel for ships


Methanol is closer to market.  It has the advantage that it is similar to traditional fuels: it is a hydrocarbon and a liquid, which makes it easier to allow dual-fuel engines that can run traditional fuels or methanol.  Such dual-fuel engines already exist in ships today [FW, 2023].

Renewable methanol


A transition to renewable methanol (from biomass or synthesised from green H2 & CO2) could expand methanol’s use as a chemical feedstock & fuel while moving industrial & transport sectors toward net carbon neutral goals [IRENA, 2021].


Compared to conventional fuels, renewable methanol cuts carbon dioxide emissions by up to 95%, reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80%, and completely eliminates sulfur oxide and particulate matter emissions [MI, 2023].  The methanol produced by either route is chemically identical to methanol produced from fossil fuel sources.

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