Methanol itself is not a direct mitigation option, but it is a stepping stone from one high carbon resource (coal or petroleum coke) to a chemical commodity that serves as an excellent hydrogen carrier, containing 12.5 wt% hydrogen. Reaching this gateway is likely to require two additional developments: one in gasification (where much has already been achieved), the other in gas separation.
Methanol can be produced from coal-derived synthesis gas (CO and H2), or reformed from natural gas (which is also reformed to make CO and H2, but with a larger component of the hydrogen coming from the fuel). Given that it can be manufactured from lower quality fuels, it can serve as a hydrogen carrier in applications where hydrogen is the desired feed. Because it has an energy density about one-half that of a hydrocarbon fuel, it isn't likely to substitute as a direct replacement for liquid fuels. While it has been considered many times as a fuel in power generation, that sector has continued to be dominated by gas, coal, and oil. In the past 10 years there have been several proposals to build and operate a unit on methanol, but in the final analysis, these never matured. In cases where mobility is a factor, perhaps requiring a battery, using methanol could potentially be a better competitor, especially if the energy conversion is achieved using a high efficiency device, such as a fuel cell. Fuel cell's are reported to reach efficiencies well over 60%, making them good candidates in the challenge to provide energy as inexpensively as possible, while limiting the impact to the environment.
Was this article helpful?