|Following successful Methanol Policy Forums in 2012 and 2014 in Washington, DC, MI will now hold the inaugural European Methanol Policy Forum in the center of Brussels in the vicinity of the European Parliament October 13-14 2015.
Global growth for methanol demand is primarily driven by oil displacement. Several governments around the world have recognised the advantages of methanol as a clean burning, alternative fuel. With innovative pilot projects within the EU already underway, should Europe now expand its methanol use?
The 1st European Methanol Policy Forum invites experts from industry, government and academia to join the debate over whether methanol can provide solutions to some of the big environmental and energy challenges that Europe faces?
* Storage of intermittent energy supply
* Improvement of air quality
* Increase in supply of renewable energy
* Reduction in energy imports
* Acceleration of re-industrialisation and job creation
India experienced one of its worst mass poisonings (due to the consumption of alcoholic beverages mixed with poorly-distilled homemade alcohol) since 100 people died in Mumbai in 2004. From adulterated alcohol supplied to residents in Mumbai suburb/slum area of Malad West, more than 102 people have died.
In a press release issued yesterday to targeted Indian and international media, relevant government authorities, and other stakeholders, MI has contacted the Indian government to offer its support and resources toward helping to protect Indian consumers and to equip the medical and law enforcement communities with the information needed to assess and treat methanol poisonings.
Indian medical professionals such as Dr. Mala V. Kaneria, Professor and Unit Head at the Mumbai-based Nair Hospital’s Department of Medicine, have correctly assessed the need for quick intervention and the initial use of ethanol in treating methanol poisonings. Of 26 poisoning victims from Malad who were admitted to Nair Hospital between June 18-23, 13 people recovered successfully as a result of this intervention, dialysis, and related medical treatment.
Through the well-established MI-LIAM Foundation Community and Medical Education Programs (CEP/MEP) in Indonesia, the Association has developed a number of educational and health tools which it has shared in markets like India where adulterated alcohol poisonings have occurred. An important aspect of the MEP has been to engage medical advisors and public health officials who conduct trainings to villagers producing homemade alcohol in which they are taught how to produce it using scientific and temperature-controlled properties that result in safe, drinkable ethanol versus methanol or other by-products which are not appropriate for human consumption.
MI and LIAM will finalize a comprehensive pilot model by September, which will then be shared with Indian and other global stakeholders to assist them in establishing similar programs aimed at protecting public health and strengthening medical education and training.
Dom LaVigne from MI’s Singapore office has been speaking with the Indian High Commission in Singapore about meeting with the High Commissioner early next week to discuss this further and to see how MI and its members can best provide assistance. More information can be found here
The new mandatory code for ships fuelled by gases or other low-flashpoint fuels was adopted by the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), when it met at the Organization’s London headquarters for its 95th session from 3 to 12 June 2015.
The MSC adopted the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), along with amendments to make the Code mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
The use of gas as fuel, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG), has increased in recent years due to lower sulphur and particulate emissions than fuel oil or marine diesel oil. But gas and other low-flashpoint fuels pose their own set of safety challenges, which need to be properly managed. The IGF Code aims to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.
The IGF Code contains mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing initially on LNG.
The Code addresses all areas that need special consideration for the usage of low-flashpoint fuels, taking a goal-based approach, with goals and functional requirements specified for each section forming the basis for the design, construction and operation of ships using this type of fuel.
The IMO’s MSC has previously indicated that it would begin work on a code for methanol upon completion of the code for LNG. Competent authorities from Sweden are leading the methanol code development. As the code for methanol is expected to mirror that for LNG in many respects, it is hoped that the IMO’s work on a methanol code will be completed in a timely fashion. More information can be found here.
BioMCN is one of Europe’s largest methanol producers, owning two methanol plants at the Chemical Park Delfzijl in The Netherlands. According to data provided by Hydrocarbon Processing, methanol consumption in Western Europe is currently more than 7 million tons per year, of which approximately 30% is used in transportation fuel applications.
OCI N.V. CEO and MI Board member Nassef Sawiris commented, “This is an important addition to our natural gas-based portfolio of products at a time when natural gas prices are becoming more favorable in Europe. We are firm believers in the methanol industry and its growth prospects. Methanol is a diverse building block for industrial chemicals and can be used as a transportation fuel. This acquisition gives us a foothold in both the European methanol markets and in the bio-methanol market.” More information can be found here
On June 1 G2X Energy, a developer/operator of advanced natural gas to methanol and fuel projects, announced that their Pampa, Texas based methanol plant is fully operational and has completed their first shipment of methanol. After building commercial quantities of inventory on site, the plant shipped its first two railcars of IMPCA specification methanol and will continue to ship railcars on a daily basis to customers throughout the Texas panhandle region. “We are extremely pleased to have achieved commercial methanol production at our Pampa, Texas facility,” stated Tim Vail, President and CEO of G2X Energy who went on to say, “This plant represents the rebirth of the petrochemical business in the Texas panhandle. By revitalizing an abandoned industrial site and leveraging the widespread availability of low-cost of shale gas, we have brought high quality jobs and prosperity back to the Pampa area.”
Commercial operations at the Pampa facility is just the start of G2X’s rapid expansion in North America. Through its partnership with MI member companies Methanol Holdings (Trinidad) Limited (MHTL) and Southern Chemical Corporation (SCC), G2X is enlarging its North American operations with the construction of a world-scale methanol facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana as well as the acquisition of natural gas reserves in the Piceance basin of Colorado as well as other areas. More information can be found here.
The University of California at Berkeley recently held a christening that is being hailed as a key moment in the effort to harness the sun’s energy to create fuel. Lawrence Berkeley Lab officials on Tuesday unveiled a $59 million Solar Energy Research Center.
Named after former US Energy Department Secretary and Lab Director Steven Chu, the 40,000-square-foot Chu Hall will be a place of world-changing research in producing cheaper, more efficient renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, said Chu, who was honored for inspiring the mission.”This is one of the most important problems that science, technology and innovation really need to solve,” Chu said. “It’s a very big deal. … We simply need to save the world, and it’s going to be science that’s going to be at the heart of that solution.”
The facility will be home to the Berkeley hub of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a US Department of Energy-funded collaboration led by Caltech that is attempting to create solar fuel as plants do by using sunlight and other catalysts to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas and convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels such as methanol and ethanol. The byproduct of producing such a fuel would be oxygen. Berkeley lab Director Paul Alivisatos said Tuesday’s occasion was a recognition of the lab for being at the forefront of renewable energy science and a representation of its aspirations for the future.
“Our goal for this place is to solve the solar energy problem,” Alivisatos said. “Right now, we can only get energy from the sun when the sun is shining. Then we have to solve the problem of what do we do the rest of the time. … If we can make fuel from sunlight, that problem would really be transformed radically. It could change the picture of how we use energy in the future and create a whole new industry.” More information can be found here.
Last Tuesday, Javed Akhtar, Performance Improvement Manager at MI member Salalah Methanol Company (SMC), and other executives spoke to aspiring chemical engineers and entreprenuers at Chemsymposium 2015. This event, organized by the Chemical Engineering section of Department of Engineering, Salalah College of Technology (SCT) focused on the challenges and opportunities in the chemical engineering sector for SCT students.
Dr. H. Shakila, Associate Professor Department of Molecular Microbiology, Madurai Kamraj University, commented, “Chemical engineering is vital to broad range of material technologies and to a large extent the materials of the future will be made possible by advances in chemical research.”
Javed presented to the students and symposium participants about the new and emerging energy applications of methanol. Commenting to Omani media on methanol’s capacity to create jobs, Javed said, “It [Methanol] is truly a global commodity, and each day there is more than 80,000 metric tons of methanol shipped from one continent to another. The global methanol industry generates US$36 billion in economic activity each year while creating over 100,000 jobs around the globe.” More information can be found here.
At the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) 2015 conference in Seoul last week, Singapore-based The Petrochemical Standard (TPS) published its Spring-Summer 2015 Catalyst magazine, in which it featured an in-depth series of articles on the global methanol industry.
Among these articles were an extensive interview with MI’s Greg Dolan on the US shale gas revolution, implications for the global methanol industry, and new/emerging methanol technologies and applications in a number of markets. Chris Chatterton and Dom LaVigne also co-authored an article on the role methanol will continue to play in China’s energy security policies, even with the current low-price oil environment.
These articles and TPS’ Catalyst magazine can be accessed here, see pages 12-14 and 17-19.
The article makes a strong case for methanol as a less-expensive alternative to LNG and other options now that Emissions Control Areas (ECA) are coming into effect which require that the industry find cleaner alternatives to high-sulfur bunker fuel.
The article also discusses a number of methanol fuel demonstrations currently under way, including European ferry line Stena’s conversion of an engine of it’s RoPax ferry Germanica to run on methanol, and MI member Methanex’s agreement with with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd., Westfal-Larsen & Co A/S and Marinvest/Skagerack Invest to build seven new 50,000-dead-weight-ton ships with MAN Diesel & Turbo’s ME-LGI flex-fuel engines running on MeOH, fuel oil, MDO or MGO. The full article can be found here.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted in favour of the compromise which was reached with the European Council about legislative changes with regard to Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) impacting renewable fuel production and use.
In the current legislation all EU member states are required to ensure that 10% of energy consumed in transportation is renewable. The overall 10% target remains unchanged, but the approved amendments introduce several changes:
[i] So-called first generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) should account for no more than 7% of energy consumed in transportation by 2020;
[ii] Fuel suppliers must report the estimated levels of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions caused by ILUC;
[iii] The Commission must report and publish these ILUC-related emissions, and;
[iv] The Commission is required to report to Parliament and Council how these ILUC figures will be included in sustainability criteria.
For Power-to-Liquid technologies, including CO2 based methanol, it is important to note that such fuels are now included as renewable energy from non-biological origin provided the energy contained in the fuel is derived from renewable electricity.
“We succeeded in getting a very technical, technological and ideological file to go ahead,” said lead MEP Nils Torvalds(ALDE, FI), after Parliament endorsed the law.
But Mr Torvalds also wondered aloud whether the law, as amended, was tough enough.
“We had much higher goals. Both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and technological progress. If Europe doesn’t move forward, it will be left behind. We also have the systemic problem of the blocking minority in Council, which sometimes develops into a dictatorship of the minority, with member states who are afraid of the future,” he added.
The endorsement by Parliament puts an end to a 3-year legislative procedure which has had a noticeable effect on investments and caused much uncertainty and concern in the EU biofuels market.
The European Associations representing the biodiesel chain (The European Oilseed Alliance, the European Biodiesel Board, and Fediol), while noting that the agreement is imperfect, were nonetheless happy that a compromise was able to be found which recognizes the importance of the EU biofuels sector and the investments made, while acknowledging the existing doubts around the concept and measurement of ILUC factors.
An amendment submitted by MI on CO2 based fuels was included in the final package. Many EU member states have shown an interest in using renewable methanol production as a liquid energy sequestration solution.
Member states are required to have implemented these legislative changes by 2017. More information can be found here.