Methanol Fuel - Clean and Green Economy

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India currently consumes around 30 billion liters of petrol and 90 billion liters diesel per year and is expected to become the third largest consumer by 2030. Import bill on crude accounts for almost 95 billion USD along with almost 30% of Green House Gas emissions coming from automobiles. To curb the alarming situations India is focused on employing methanol as an alternative fuel that would reduce the import bill by 15% by the year 2022.India by adopting Methanol can replace both petrol and diesel in the transport sector and provide an indigenous fuel at the cost of approximately Rs 19 per liter, which is at least 30% lower than any other available fuel. Methanol as a fuel can result in great environmental benefits and can be the answer to the burning urban pollution problem. Methanol is a clean fuel with almost zero pollution as it produces no particulate matter, no soot, almost no SOX and NOX emissions. Apart from transportation fuel methanol can replace LPG, wood, kerosene as cooking fuel and electricity with methanol based hybrid electric mobility units fuel by methanol.

Most of the countries worldwide are using methanol. Almost 9% of transport fuel in countries like China, Israel and Italy has adopted the 15% blending program with petrol.  Japan and Korea have extensive Methanol & DME usage and Australia has adopted GEM fuels (Gasoline, Ethanol & Methanol) and blends. Methanol production in India is currently from imported natural gas which makes it expensive and the production sustainability is dependent on the global imports. Instead employing an indigenous coal to methanol technology would enable us to utilize the largely available coal reserves in our country and also reduce our dependency on imports.

The economic viability and sustainability can be achieved by using renewable feed stocks like biomass/municipal solid waste and flared natural gas apart from using coal. Methanol production from atmospheric CO2 is observed to garner focus worldwide as it has the potential to provide an enduring solution to both atmospheric pollution and natural reserves depletion.

India government will be coming with a new policy which would make 15% blending of methanol in petrol. National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has chalked out a plan to utilize the abundantly available coal reserves to begin producing methanol indigenously using the well-known coal to methanol technology. The NITI Aayog has assessed that a 15,000-tonne-per-day coal-to- methanol unit will be enough to meet the initial target set by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of reducing crude oil import dependence by 10 per cent by 2022. Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, said, “The 15,000-tonne-per-day plant will cost ₹9,000-₹10,000 crore to gasify coal and convert to methanol. This will be enough to meet the initial target of a 10 per cent cut in crude oil import dependence by 2020.”  It has suggested the establishment of commercial plants with 1600 T/day capacity would be produce methanol at a comparable price of methanol being imported.

Establishing commercial plants for methanol production from various feed stocks apart from coal will further boost the ‘Make in India’ program by both reducing the import dependency and capacity-building associated with skill development, young entrepreneurial startups and green jobs. The methanol economy can be readily implemented as the coal reserves are abundant and the conversion technology is available making in economical in the present day. Whereas, in the case of hydrogen economy there are still issues concerned with transportation, storage and production, however, it would be the future fuel when coal reserves deplete.

Author: Sai Kishore Butti, Senior Research Fellow, Bioengineering and Environmental Sciences Lab, EEFF Department, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, (CSIR-IICT) Hyderabad.

(Image source:*ZDJJSiqex3x8nNCo_ujrOQ.jpeg)

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