METHANOL – Future Fuel? On The Road To The Methanol Economy
The world has large resources of crude oil and gas, but they are focused mainly in the Middle East. Ultimately, economic and civic factors will force to use new household feedstocks for manufacturing liquid engine fuels. Among the viable alternatives are manufacturing methanol from natural gas or coal or getting gasoline from coal by direct liquefaction.
India requires around 2900 cr liters of petrol and 9000 cr liters of diesel per year currently, the 6th highest consumer in the world and will increase consumption and grow 3rd largest consumer by 2030. Our import bill on account of crude attains at almost 6 lac crores.
Hydrocarbon Fuels have also unfavorably affected the environment with Green House Gas Emissions (GHG). India is the third highest energy-related carbon dioxide emitter nation in the world.
Almost 30% of pollution in cities like Delhi is from automobiles and the developing number of automobiles on the road will further worsen the pollution. The current situation is alarming and time has arrived for the Government to perform a comprehensive road map to overcome the urban pollution in this country and stop pollution-related losses completely. (1)
Methanol is a clean-burning fall in fuel which can reinstate both petrol & diesel in transport & gasoline, LPG, Wood, Kerosene in cooking fuel. It can also compensate diesel in Railways, Marine Sector, Gensets, Power Generation and Methanol based reformers could be the perfect complement to Hybrid and Electric Mobility. Methanol Economy is the ‘Bridge’ to the dream of a whole “Hydrogen based fuel systems”.
Methanol lights efficiently in all internal combustion engines, produces no particulate matter, no smoke, nearly nil SOX and NOX emissions (Near Zero Pollution). The gaseous version of Methanol (DME) can combine with LPG and can be an outstanding substitute for diesel in large buses and trucks. (2)
Methanol can be generated from Natural Gas, Indian High Ash Coal, Bio-mass, MSW, stranded and burned gases and India can achieve through right technology modification to produce Methanol @ Rs.19 a liter from Indian coal and all other feedstock.
The most satisfying part world is now moving towards renewable methanol from C02 and the endless recycling of CO₂ into Methanol, maintain C02 emitted from Steel plants, Geothermal power or any other source of C02, completely “Air to Methanol”.
African and many Caribbean countries have chosen Methanol cooking fuel and across the world Gensets and manufacturing boilers are running on Methanol, alternatively of diesel.
Renewable Methanol by seizing C02 back from the environment is growing very popular and is viewed by the world as the “Enduring Energy Solution known to Mankind”. Methanol is a vital solution to the burning problem of Urban pollution worldwide. (3)
Gasoline from methanol:
Globally, the transport sector estimates for a quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and its percentage will only grow in the future, with economic growth currently moving in most developing countries.
Measures, like advancing electric vehicles and blending fossil fuels with biofuel, can assist reduce carbon heat to a considerable extent.
Even though solar and wind energy composition is ever-increasing, there is a need to search for bioenergy options. Transforming biofuels into high-quality fuels such as high-octane petrol or superior jet fuels is believable technologically but the current technologies are fairly expensive as they require costly conversion processes.
This is where a crew of researchers achieved a discovery recently. They have discovered a way a more affordable one at that to convert methanol stored from biomass sources into high-performance fuels.
Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the Department of Energy lab, have acquired a novel catalyst whose worth can drive down the expenses involved in the biorefining process significantly. The NREL scientists detailed the new technique in a recent edition of Nature Catalysis journal.
They have developed an incentive, a solid substance that supports to convert matter from one form to another simply as nature would but much quicker, that turns a common element into high-performance gasoline (petrol).
This common chemical (methanol) can be generated from renewable sources like biomass and gases from wastewater processing facilities, which indicates we can deliver gasoline that is better than what we receive from oil, without using oil. (4)
The obstacle with current technologies is that the exchange cost of doing so is prohibitively high as it relies on multi-step processes lacking high temperatures. Besides, they offer low-grade fuel, that too in inadequate amounts, compared to petroleum-based fuel.
With the earlier reported technology, the conversion expense from methanol to the aspired fuel product is about $1 a gallon (nearly 3.8 liters). Now, with the new catalyst, the NREL scientists engineered to bring down the cost considerably. Their best-case scenario was 10 US cents (₹7) a liter.
Biomass gasification generates carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen gases. These gases are the equivalent ones produced by steam reforming or unfinished oxidation of natural gas. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen are switched to methanol first. The methanol is next converted to dimethyl ether (DME) to exclude oxygen, present in carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gases.
Both methanol and dimethyl ether give gasoline when reacted over the new catalyst. The dimethyl ether provides a better yield of gasoline in the process than methanol. (5)
Copper does it:
But when they set out to perform, they noticed that it wasn’t a simple solution. The process promoted by the NREL scientists at first went into the problem of hydrogen insufficiency. Hydrogen is a fundamental component of hydrocarbons, which are important for fuels.
The researchers then hypothesized that utilizing a transition metal would answer that problem. The addition of copper to the catalyst resolved that problem. The researchers calculate the copper-infused catalyst appeared in 38 percent more yield and 29 percent less cost.
Moreover, they understood that they doubled a jackpot. They detected that the fuel that they had created was high-quality high carbon-efficient fuel. They discerned that even if the cost savings were minimum, the resulting output would have a higher value.
With petroleum costs being low currently, the new means may not be commercially viable yet. But if and when oil shifts more expensive, because we can deliver methanol from any carbon source, this means will be cheaper. If one embraces the environmental cost, this process is cheaper if starting with biocarbon.
The biggest takeaway from the research is that high-performance synthetic fuels are still a likelihood. Secondly, this is a gateway to combine bio and fossil carbon into the same process to start to wean ourselves off petroleum. (6)
To know more the technology, refer: