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What is methanol

Methanol, also known as methyl or wood alcohol, is a liquid waterborne and inflammable biodegradable substance. Methanol is one of the major ingredients used for production of many types of industrial and consumer goods. Ecological and economical advantages of methanol make it an attractive alternative fuel for cars and ships, as well as to heat houses and to cook meals.

Methanol as a fuel

Methanol is an alternative type of fuel, environmentally and economically efficient. It can be used both independently and as a part of other types of fuel. Methanol is also a part of additives, increasing the octane number of gasoline.

Extensive use of methanol

Methanol is an important ingredient used for the manufacture of hundreds of consumer and industrial goods. It is an intermediate product in the chemical industry.

The methanol is popular because of its derivatives, from which the consumer package goods are produced, such as construction materials, foams, resins, plastics, paints, polyester and various medical and pharmaceutical products.

Production of methanol

Chemical formula of methanol is CH3OH, it belongs to the group of simplest monobasic alcohols. Methanol can be produced from natural gas, coal and renewable sources, such as garbage, biomass and recycled carbon dioxide.

Industrially, methanol is mainly produced from natural gas by means of reforming, which is the processing of gas with water vapor. The gas substance obtained due to such method is then distilled in order to get pure methanol. As a result, they receive liquid organic chemical, soluble in water and easily amenable to biological degradation.

50% of methanol in the world is produced in China, and about 30% in the Middle East. It is forecasted that in the coming years, the proportion of Chinese manufacturers would exceed 60%, the level of the Middle East manufacturers would remain at the same level. Almost 80% of the China's methanol is produced from coal.

Use of methanol

Methanol is used for the production of many consumer and industrial products and is an alternative source of fuel.

Ecologically clean fuel

About 40% of the methanol produced in the world is used in the energy sphere. Methanol can be used:

  • independently, as a motor fuel. Methanol as a fuel provides a lower level of emissions than a regular gasoline, it is burnt cleaner with a smaller emissions of soot. Methanol fuel is very popular in China, as well as in some other countries. Methanol is increasingly used as a fuel for ships, since it satisfies the growing requirements towards the emissions of greenhouse gases, applicable in the shipping industry.
  • as a component of the fuel. Methanol is used to produce dimethyl ether (DME), a fuel of the future for diesel engines. Methanol is a key component of biodiesel fuel, which is a renewable fuel that can be used instead of, or in conjunction with the conventional diesel fuel.
  • as a component of additives that increase the gasoline octane number, e.g. methyl-tret-butyl ether (MTBE).

It is a basis for the production of many products for everyday use

In industry, a great part of methanol is used for the production of formaldehyde (about 30%), from which adhesives, foams, solvents and washer are produced. Methanol is also used for the production of isoprene, acetic acid and a number of esters. Significant part of methanol is used in the paint industry for the manufacture of solvents for varnishes.

Storage and transportation of methanol

Methanol is traded worldwide, it is highly transportable and can be shipped by river and sea, as well as by pipeline and railway transport.

As with the most other types of fuel and chemicals, it should be treated with extreme caution. One should use metal or glass, but not plastic containers during storage and transportation of methanol. It shall be kept in well-ventilated premises, away from fire.

Main consumers of methanol

The greatest demand for methanol around the world is observed in China, the Chinese companies use almost 50% of the world's methanol. Other countries of the Asian region and the companies from United States and Canada consume about 40% methanol, the share of enterprises of the Latin America amounts to 10%.

The 20 largest consumers at the world’s market consume 30% of the methanol produced. These consumers are the largest global and Chinese companies, such as BP, Celanese, Momentive, Sabic, BASF, Skyford and others.

Demand for methanol

Worldwide demand for methanol is growing for several reasons.

Currently, there has been a significant growth of production of Methanol-to-Olefins in China and, consequently, the high demand for methanol as a raw product.

Methanol is a good alternative to oil and it can be used as a fuel. China shows a growing demand for methanol as a fuel. It is expected that in the next 4 years, the demand will grow at least by 5% annually.

The demand for methanol as a fuel for ships is also growing in maritime transportation, especially in the United States and the Western Europe, as well as in the Middle East Region and Australia.