Methanol, the most basic alcohol, is the basis for hundreds of chemicals which become thousands of final products ranging from adhesives, agricultural chemicals, paints and varnishes, synthetic resins, synthetic fiber, medications, carpeting and fuel for dragsters and monster trucks. It is a vital component of modern life and a truly global commodity.
Application: Vehicle Fuel
Methanol is easy to transport, readily available and has a high octane rating. Many countries are working on methanol fuel programs and it is the fastest growing segment of the methanol marketplace today. This is largely driven by by it’s lower price relative to gasoline or ethanol, andthe fact that it produces fewer toxic emissions and particulate matter than reformulated gasoline. Methanol is also converted into dimethyl ether (DME) and used as a diesel replacement.
Application: Fuel Cell Hydrogen Carrier
One exciting application is the use of Methanol as a key component in a variety of fuel cells, with the two primary types being Direct Methanol Fuel Cells and Reformed Methanol Fuel Cells (also known as Indirect Methanol Fuel Cells). In this latter type, Methanol is reformed to extract hydrogen, and the energy generated in the course of this reaction of hydrogen with oxygen in the air is harnessed as electricity. From vehicle-size or backup power supply fuel cells to portable fuel cells for electronics, Methanol is an ideal hydrogen carrier, with more hydrogen atoms per gallon than any other normally stable liquid.
Application: Wastewater Denitrification
Methanol is used by industrial and municipal wastewater treatment facilities to help remove nitrogen from waste streams, which can have a devastating effect on water ecosystems. Methanol accelerates the anerobic bacterial process of breaking down nitrates into harmless nitrogen gas, which is released into the atmosphere (which is already 78% nitrogen).
Application: Biodiesel Transeserification
Methanol is used to convert the triglycerides in different types of oils (like vegetable oils, animal fats and recycled greases) into fatty acid alkyl esters (biodiesel fuel) and the useful byproduct glycerin. Biodiesel production is growing at a rapid pace around the world.
Application: Electricity Generation
There are many current projects underway using methanol as a fuel source to generate steam to drive electrical turbines which are often used as “peak generators” during times of very high power demand. Methanol is a viable replacement fuel for existing dual-fueled gas turbines, and is a more environmentally friendly way of improving their performace.
Application: Chemical Feedstock
Methanol is a key component of hundreds of chemicals integral to our modern world. It is most often converted into formaldehyde, acetic acid and olefins, basic chemical building blocks for thousands of products