The energy sector is methanol's fastest growing market – especially for direct gasoline blending, methanol-to-olefins and biodiesel.
Methanol is a clean-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 clean-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 for Vehicle Fuel
Across the world, methanol is emerging as a clean, sustainable transportation fuel of the future. Methanol can be blended with gasoline in low-quantities and used in existing road vehicles, or it can be used in high-proportion blends such as M85-M100 in flex-fuel or dedicated methanol-fueled vehicles. Technology is also being commercialized to use methanol as a diesel substitute.
In China, methanol-gasoline blending has grown rapidly due to methanol's favourable economics, clean-burning benefits and energy security benefits. China's federal and provincial governments have implemented programs and fuel-blending standards in many provinces to promote methanol as a fuel.
Some countries in Europe are also using gasoline blended with small quantities of methanol. Other countries, including Australia and Israel, have completed commercialization activities to support the commercialization of methanol fuels. 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 underway are focused on the heavy duty truck market in North America and the passenger vehicle market in Europe. DME projects are operating or under development in countries including: Japan, Trinidad, the United States, India, and Australia.
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 as an Industrial Boiler Fuel
Growing demand for methanol as an industrial boiler fuel has largely been driven by China, where industrial boilers are used extensively to generate heat and steam for various industrial applications and residential heating.
Industrial boilers have traditionally been coal fueled in China; however, increasingly stringent environmental regulations being phased in by the Chinese government are resulting in a transition to cleaner burning fuels including methanol.