Growing recognition of the threat posed by man-made climate change has spurred government institutions, industry, and science to find clean fuels to power economic activity. Government legislation on emissions has created challenges for those who need to comply, opening new markets and opportunities for alternative fuels, including methanol.
In 2018, the European Parliament, Council and Commission agreed on the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), requiring 14% renewable energy to be used in transport by 2030. In total, 66 countries have put targets or mandates in place. Besides the EU-27, 14 countries in the Americas, 12 countries in Asia Pacific, 11 in Africa and 2 in non-EU countries in Europe all have implemented biofuels adoption policies, some as high as 15 to 27%2 *.
In this context, methanol has risen as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, offering a clear pathway to drastically cutting emissions in power generation, overland transportation, shipping, and industry. Methanol is an outstanding energy delivery mechanism and may therefore be considered as a unique storage medium for sustainable energy. As a result, methanol has become one of the largest commodities and methanol demand is expected to continue to grow. There is a well-established worldwide production with methanol plants in Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Middle East. Worldwide, over 90 methanol plants have a combined yearly production capacity of about 110 million metric tons (almost 36.6 billion gallons or 138 billion litres). According to IHS, global methanol demand reached 75 million metric tons in 2015 (24 billion gallons/91 billion litres) **.
The fuel applied for SerEnergy fuel technology is a pre-mix consisting of 60 % methanol and 40 % demineralized and de-ionized water (on a volume basis). This mixture provides many advantages as an energy-carrier, since it is less flammable than pure methanol and, therefore cheaper to transport. Moreover, there is no water condenser needed, which again means lower weight, higher efficiency, and lower cost compared to pure methanol.
The cleanest methanol variant is defined as green or renewable methanol. Compared to conventional fuels, renewable methanol cuts carbon dioxide emissions by up to 95%, reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80%, and eliminates sulphur oxide and particulate matter emissions. This is available in European countries and worldwide, see also figure 1 for stakeholders involved in production of renewable methanol.
Off- and on-grid Benefits
Remote areas and island nations, which often rely heavily on diesel generators, could save money by switching to conventional methanol***. The “Renewable Methanol Report (Methanol Institute, Dec. 2018) documents the tendency; as wind and solar prices drop, they are often cheaper than diesel, which, due to safety and logistics, becomes increasingly expensive in difficult to access areas. Wind and solar power offer remote clusters and islands an opportunity to enjoy lower energy costs, reduce dependence on imported energy, and mitigate their impact on the environment. However, wind and solar are variable and might not be available when most needed, so islands need to retain some back-up capacity. Adopting methanol with SerEnergy fuel cells would significantly reduce harmful emissions compared to diesel generators. Methanol could also play a key role in providing grid stability by drawing excess renewable electricity from the system to power electrolysis, one of the key processes in the manufacture of methanol. The resulting methanol could then be used as a clean power plant fuel that can be dispatched to provide energy whenever it is required.