The energy sector is methanol's fastest growing market
Methanol is a cleaner-burning marine fuel that can cost-effectively meet the shipping industry’s increasingly stringent emissions regulations. New environmental regulations from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other governing bodies are requiring ships to decrease emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
With its cleaner-burning qualities, methanol can reduce or eliminate these smog-contributing emissions, which can help improve air quality and related human health issues. Interest in methanol as a marine fuel is growing globally and methanol is being used in a number of projects and commercial activities around the world. Learn more about methanol marine fuel developments.
Methanol as a Lower Emission Vehicle Fuel
Methanol is being used as an affordable alternative liquid transportation fuel due to its efficient combustion, ease of distribution and wide availability around the globe. Methanol is used in gasoline blends around the world at high volume percentages (50-100%), and mid (15-30%) and low blends (3-5%).
In China, increasingly stringent air quality standards are supporting the adoption of methanol as a clean-burning vehicle fuel. For the past ten years, Methanex has been working with automobile manufacturer Geely and other partners in China to support the growth of M100 (100 per cent methanol fuel) for vehicles, including taxi fleets in the country.
Commercial trucks are another emerging opportunity in China, with Geely developing the world's first pure methanol combustion heavy-duty truck. As of 2021, there were 1,000 methanol fueled heavy-duty trucks in operarion in China, and Geely has ambitions to manufacture and market up to 3,000 methanol fueled trucks per year by 2025. Learn more about methanol as a transportation fuel.
Light olefins (ethylene and propylene) are the basic building blocks used to produce many plastic products. Olefins can be produced from various feedstocks including methanol, naphtha, liquefied petroleum gas and ethane.
In recent years, demand for methanol in the production of olefins or methanol-to-olefins (MTO) has grown rapidly. The MTO process is cost competitive compared to the use of naphtha, and MTO demand is expected to continue increasing in China.
Dimethyl ether (DME) is a clean-burning fuel that is typically produced from methanol. It can be stored and transported like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). DME is being produced on a large scale in China, where it is primarily being blended with LPG for household cooking and heating.
DME can also be used as a clean-burning substitute for diesel fuel, but this in not widespread today. Commercialization activities are underway to support the commercialization of DME as a vehicle fuel in North America and Europe.
Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether
Methanol is used to produce methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), an oxygenate blended with gasoline to increase octane and reduce motor vehicle emissions. MTBE is an efficient, clean-burning and cost-competitive gasoline component used in many regions of the world.
Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from plant oils or animal fats that uses methanol in the production process. Methanol is also used to manufacture the catalyst employed to produce biodiesel.
Methanol for Power
Methanol is a cost effective, liquid fuel alternative for power generation, particularly in remote regions which use diesel and are not situated near gas pipelines. Only minor modifications and expenditures are needed to adapt existing power plants and associated infrastructure to accommodate the use of methanol as a fuel for power.
Methanol is a cleaner burning fuel for power generation than diesel and can help meet environmental regulations and improve air quality. Methanol also offers utilities fuel flexibility. Power plants operating on diesel that convert to methanol can operate on either fuel. Learn more about methanol for power generation.
Methanol is a cleaner-burning fuel for thermal applications, including industrial boilers, kilns, heating furnaces and cooking stoves. Growing demand for methanol as an industrial boiler and kiln fuel has largely been driven by China, where industrial boilers are used extensively to generate heat and steam for various industrial applications and kilns are used to produce ceramics, dry tobacco and various food items. Industrial boilers have traditionally been coal-fueled in China. However, environmental regulations being phased in by the Chinese government are resulting in a transition to cleaner-burning fuels (including methanol) that can reduce impacts on local air quality and related human health.
In 2021, Methanex worked with industry partners to draft a group standard for cooking fuel that was officially published by China Association of Rural Energy Industry (CAREI). Effective from Jan. 1,2022, the standard will be used by local governments to supervise the use of methanol fueled cooking stoves.