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Biofuel Subsidies to Continue Under New EU State-Aid... On Wednesday, the European Commission issued long-awaited guidelines on how member states should award state subsidies to renewable-energy technologies. Though much of the attention has focused on solar...

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2014 Methanol Policy Forum Makes Case for Methanol... Washington, DC - On Tuesday, MI and its partners, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and the U.S. Energy Security Council (USESC) held the second Washington Methanol Policy Forum...

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Methanol Fuel Cells Help Capture Wildlife Footage for... Fuel cell technology has been used to provide a reliable source of off-grid power for remote camera units that recorded wildlife footage in Scotland for a recent BBC natural history TV series. During the...

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2014 Methanol Policy Forum and MI Board Meeting in... The Methanol Institute, with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and the U.S. Energy Security Council are holding the second Washington Methanol Policy Forum on March 18th, 2014, at the Hyatt...

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MI Participates in IFSP Board Meeting Manila, Philippines – Dom LaVigne from MI’s Singapore office represented the industry at a quarterly Board of Directors meeting of the International Federation of Spirits Producers (IFSP), held in...

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Biofuel Subsidies to Continue Under New EU State-Aid Guidelines

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EU Graphic.PNGOn Wednesday, the European Commission issued long-awaited guidelines on how member states should award state subsidies to renewable-energy technologies. Though much of the attention has focused on solar power, this document may also indicate that the European Union has given up trying to rein in biofuels. Campaigners say the guidelines show that the Commission has abandoned its intention to encourage second-generation biofuels that are not produced from food crops and are seen as less environmentally damaging.

EU member states have been subsidizing biofuels since a 2008 target was set requiring them to source 10% of their transport fuel from renewable sources by 2020. But since then, campaigners have said that EU subsidies drive land-grabs in the developing world and divert food crops to use as fuel. Because of changes in land use (ILUC) and deforestation resulting from it, first-generation biofuel is causing more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere than it saves through use as a fuel, it is alleged. Critics say second-generation biofuel not derived from food crops should be incentivized in EU policy instead. In 2012, the Commission proposed that only half the 10% target should be met with first-generation biofuel. But there was fierce resistance from the traditional biofuel industry. Last year a vote in the European Parliament, and a subsequent decision by member states, deferred the proposal until 2015.

In January, the Commission seemed to be sticking to its guns. In its proposal for new 2030 climate targets, the Commission insisted: “Food-based biofuels should not receive public support after 2020.” But according to the latest draft, the guidelines will allow subsidies to all types of biofuel to continue. A provision in an original draft from last year specified that aid “can only be granted to installations that do not produce biofuels from cereal and other starch-rich crops” as defined by the Commission’s 2012 proposal. This sentence has been deleted. The new text has also dropped the earlier draft’s distinction between food-based and advanced biofuel.

Campaigners have reacted angrily. “Now the Commission wants to allow EU governments to continue support and expand these biofuels,” said Tara Connolly of Greenpeace. “It is back to square one.” However, biofuel companies say it is right to continue subsidies until 2020 as long as member states still have a target to meet. More information can be found here.

2014 Methanol Policy Forum Makes Case for Methanol Fuel Blending

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Forum PIC FOR BLOGWashington, DC – On Tuesday, MI and its partners, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) and the U.S. Energy Security Council (USESC) held the second Washington Methanol Policy Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  As with the first forum, held in 2012, the 2014 Methanol Policy Forum was a great success.  Over 160 attendees from around the world came together with industry CEO’s, federal agency employees and other interested parties.  The full-day event featured three panel discussions, a special luncheon discussion with the U.S. Energy Security Council and a roundtable discussion on the prospects for methanol fuels in the United States.  Panel topics ranged from the resurgence of the domestic methanol industry, to methanol fuel blending, and the path to unlocking our vehicles to methanol fuel.

Reports from the assembled CEO’s made clear methanol’s strong resurgence in the U.S.  As Methanex CEO John Floren noted in his remarks, Methanex is dismantling two plants in Chile, and reassembling them in the U.S..  Floren went on to state that “We expect a lot of new plants to be built here in the U.S.”  OCI CEO Nassef Sawiris noted that OCI subsidiary Natgasoline LLC was breaking ground this week on a new 1.75 million ton per year greenfield methanol plant in Beaumont, Texas.

MI’s Greg Dolan noted, in welcoming remarks, that “We are gathered here in Washington again to mark the renewed interest we are seeing in the United States for the use of methanol as a transportation fuel.”

Many speakers throughout the day echoed Dolan’s sentiments.  Mike Jackson, research director at MI’s newest member the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF), told the assembled group that for a gasoline substitute or major gasoline blending component to thrive, it must have a low cost for vehicle manufacturing or conversion and a low cost at the pump, “and methanol is potentially a fuel that can do that.”  He went on to state that “We think methanol has a quicker path to commercialization” than other alternative fuels.

Matt Brusstar, deputy director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory discussed his agency’s long history of methanol advocacy, dating back to the 1980’s when the agency’s Charles Gray published “Moving America to Methanol.”  He also spoke of the agency’s current focus on heavy duty engines and technology for methanol diesel blends, noting that “There are very few barriers right now to introducing the technology.”

FORUM PIC 2The lunch discussion with the U.S. Energy Security Council, which is made up of the top echelons of Washington’s policy circles, was a highlight of the day.  Former cabinet members, senators and former energy industry CEO’s  all participated in a roundtable discussion that focused on improving energy security through fuel choice. John Hofmeister, founder of Citizens for Affordable Energy and former President of Shell Oil Company from 2005 to 2008 noted that using methanol as a vehicle fuel would reduce U.S. reliance on imported oil and offer a hedge against oil price shocks that raise gasoline prices.  Hofmeister also pointed out that increased lobbying of lawmakers on Capitol Hill was needed if methanol was to compete successfully against other alternative fuels, saying “It would help if people on the Hill understood the value to the consumer and the importance in the fuel mix.”  As Gal Luft, co-director of the IAGS noted in his remarks, the ethanol industry outspent the methanol industry on lobbying by a 50 to 1 margin in 2013.

All speaker presentations from the conference are available at the newly launched www.MethanolFuels.org website under Public Policy > U.S. & The Americas, or directly by clicking here.  As soon as available, event video will also be posted on this page.

Methanol Fuel Cells Help Capture Wildlife Footage for BBC TV Series

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BBC BIRDFuel cell technology has been used to provide a reliable source of off-grid power for remote camera units that recorded wildlife footage in Scotland for a recent BBC natural history TV series. During the production of the BBC Winter watch program, which was broadcast in January 2014, the BBC’s Natural History Unit opted for an alternative power supply that would ensure minimal disturbance to both wildlife and the environment while filming two spectacular wildlife events in the Mar Lodge Estate in Braemar, Scotland.

The remoteness of the filming sites meant that mains power, usually supplied by the electricity grid, was unavailable. Diesel generators would have proved too noisy and cumbersome, and would have also produced unnecessary carbon emissions in one of Britain’s most important nature conservation landscapes. In locations such as this, batteries are often regarded as the most suitable power solution. However, batteries will only supply a limited amount of power before they discharge and need changing. If the film crew was to capture these extremely rare wildlife events, then regular site visits had to be avoided at all costs.

Berkshire-based Fuel Cell Systems supplied two EFOY Pro 2400 direct methanol fuel cells, each powered with 10 liters of methanol fuel (M10) to provide a reliable source of off-grid power. The EFOY Pro units were manufactured by German-based SFC Energy, whose fuel cells are well established in the consumer, industry, and defense & security markets.

A reliable source of continuous power was supplied by the fuel cells, to run two Bradley remote cameras along with audio and video codecs for nine days. This allowed the film crew to maintain remote video, audio, and camera control via a fiber-optic cable, while minimizing disturbance to both sites. Fuel cells run silently, and can be left in situ for long periods of time without refueling. This allowed the BBC Winter watch film crew to obtain some excellent rare footage of a pair of Golden Eagles arriving and roosting in a tree, along with some unusual film of Black Grouse courtship rituals. “There is growing interest from the outside broadcasting industry in the benefits offered by fuel cells,” says Tom Sperrey, managing director of Fuel Cell Systems and its parent company, UPS Systems Plc. “They are quiet, easy to transport, cheap to maintain, and offer long runtimes.” More information can be found here.

2014 Methanol Policy Forum and MI Board Meeting in Washington, DC

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methanolforum2014The Methanol Institute, with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and the U.S. Energy Security Council are holding the second Washington Methanol Policy Forum on March 18th, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

This full-day event will kick-off with a panel of CEO’s representing the growing number of methanol producers opening plants in Louisiana, Texas and beyond. The event will provide the most up-to-date information on methanol fuel blending around the globe, with experts from China, Israel, Australia and Europe. Officials from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency will join with technology innovators to discuss how to unlock our vehicles to methanol. Plus, there will be a special luncheon debate with members of the U.S. Energy Security Council — a “who’s who” of Washington policy leaders — on fuel choices.

Additionally, MI will hold a Board of Directors meeting following the Policy Forum on March 19th, also at the Hyatt Regency.  A list of Policy Forum Speakers can be found below.  For more information, or to register for the forum, please click here. 

Confirmed speakers include:

Hon. J. Bennett Johnston, US Energy Security Council, Former Senator from Louisiana and Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee

Robert C. McFarlane, US Energy Security Council, Former National Security Advisor

John Hofmeister, US Energy Security Council, Former President Shell Oil Company

John Floren, CEO, Methanex

Tim Vail, CEO, G2X Energy

Rebecca Boudreaux, President, Oberon Fuels

Steven Hansen, Raymond James

Zhou Kai, Peking University and China Association of Alcohol and Clean Ether Fuels and Automobiles

Anat Bonshtien, Israel Prime Minister’s Fuel Choices Initiative

Matt Brusstar, Deputy Director, U.S. EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory

Grant Lukey, Methanol Business Manager and Director, Coogee Energy Australia

Jim Bruce, Vice President, United Parcel Service

Joe Cannon, Fuel Freedom Foundation

Robert Rapier, Advanced Green Innovations

Greg Dolan, Methanol Institute

Ben Iosefa, Methanex

Anne Korin, IAGS

Gal Luft, IAGS 

MI Participates in IFSP Board Meeting

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IFSP LogoManila, Philippines – Dom LaVigne from MI’s Singapore office represented the industry at a quarterly Board of Directors meeting of the International Federation of Spirits Producers (IFSP), held in Manila on Wednesday.

IFSP, which has been actively working with government and law enforcement officials in Indonesia and other markets to prevent counterfeiting of its members’ alcoholic beverages, invited MI to give a presentation to its Board and to look at potential areas for cooperation between the two organizations.

IFSP was founded in Thailand in 1993, and was formally organized as a not-for-profit organization in the United Kingdom in May 2005.  Its seven members – Bacardi, Beam, Brown-Forman, Diageo, Moet Hennessy, Pernod Ricard, and Remy Cointreau – participate in the association through their staff and industry partners at the global, regional, and country levels.

Dom introduced MI to the 25-person group of IFSP members and the association’s industry partners.  He also gave a detailed presentation on the methanol industry’s product stewardship and responsible care activities that have been led by the Institute’s Product Stewardship Committee and Bootleg Alcohol Prevention Subcommittee (BAPS).  This included MI’s on-going work with Project HOPE in Indonesia and involvement on similar poisoning incidents that have occurred in Poland and Vietnam in recent months.

IFSP provided additional insights into its work in Indonesia, where it has been cooperating closely with law enforcement to emphasize the potentially negative public health and economic effects resulting from alcohol adulterations and poisonings, as well as the reputational risk to manufacturers’ brands.  IFSP indicated that the counterfeiting problem in Indonesia is mostly due to rebottling – i.e., the emptying of legitimate spirits bottles and refilling them with other alcoholic mixtures that are not usually just sub-standard ethanol, but often industrial (fuel-grade) ethanol mixed with shoe polish and other ingredients to give the appearance that these alcohols are legitimate.

IFSP first held educational workshops in Bali and Lombok in October 2013, at which 70 and 88 participants respectively participated.

Dom met with IFSP’s country directors from Singapore and Indonesia, and will include them in a meeting with Project HOPE in Jakarta on Tuesday, in order to explore potential areas for cooperation which could enhance the MI-Project HOPE collaboration.  MI has also invited IFSP to send its CEO and/or representative of the Board of Directors to give a similar briefing to MI’s Board at its upcoming March or June meetings.  More information on IFSP can be found here.

Methanol: The Other Transportation Fuel

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Hydrocarbon Processing PhotoA “Viewpoint” article written by MI’s acting CEO Greg Dolan entitled “Methanol: The Other Transportation Fuel” was published in the February “Clean Fuels” edition of Hydrocarbon Processing magazine.  In this article Mr. Dolan discussed the fact that the Open Fuels Standard Act was introduced to direct automakers to have half of all new cars by the 2017 model year capable of operating on a fuel other than gasoline, with models including ethanol and methanol flexible-fuel-vehicles.

With many lawmakers currently questioning whether the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS’s) goals of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels in the pool by 2022 are achievable, Dolan notes that it also may be time to consider a domestic fuel standard that opens the market to fuel blends, including methanol, made from domestic natural gas. Dolan also points out that  methanol has been identified as the most efficient and economic transportation fuel to be produced from natural gas by the current Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The article also includes details on the advancements that China has made regarding the diversification of its fuel pool. More information can be found here.

MI and Project HOPE Collaborate to Save Lives

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Edelman-Lunch-8In a press release that was sent to key local, regional Asia Pacific, and global media on Wednesday, MI and Project HOPE announced their collaboration to address and stem incidences of methanol poisoning in Indonesia.

MI members have donated generously to the Institute’s Methanol Foundation, which has contracted Project HOPE to develop a campaign in Indonesia that will:  conduct training for hospital emergency room personnel and first responders to quickly identify and treat methanol poisoning cases; organize workshops to educate the news media about the dangers of bootleg alcohol consumption, so they can educate the public and international visitors; and raise awareness among law enforcement and policy makers about counterfeit spirits.

Project HOPE is a global non-governmental organization (NGO) headquartered in Millwood, Virginia (United States) that was founded in 1958 to provide solutions to global health problems through medical training, health education, and humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries, including in Indonesia.

Hank Williams, Marketing Manager at MI member company AMPCO Marketing, LLC, is Chairman of MI’s Bootleg Alcohol Prevention Subcommittee (BAPS), which has been leading working closely with Project HOPE’s offices in the US and Jakarta.  MI is also engaging closely with the LIAM Foundation and a coalition of industry groups in support of alcohol adulteration prevention efforts in Indonesia.  An industry association representing alcohol and spirits producers (who are part of this coalition) have invited Dom LaVigne from MI’s Singapore office to brief their Board of Directors on the MI-Project HOPE partnership and related MI product stewardship initiatives at a special meeting in Manila on February 26.

A copy of the press release and MI white paper on adulterated alcohol can be downloaded here from MI’s web site.

Members who have questions on the MI-Project HOPE initiative or who might wish to contribute to this worthy cause can contact Larry Navin (lnavin@methanol.org) in MI’s Washington office, or Dom LaVigne (dlavigne@methanol.org) in Singapore.

DME Touted as Promising Alternative Fuel

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Oberon LogoA recent article in Resource Investing News makes a strong case for the future of Dimethyl Ether (DME) as a transportation fuel.  With the U.S. shale gas boom providing abundant and low cost natural gas, the future looks bright for alternative transportation fuels such as methanol and DME which use natural gas as a feedstock.

DME is water soluble, non-toxic and biodegradable in the event of a spill.  It can be readily made by from natural gas through a refining process that converts natural gas to syngas, syngas to methanol, and methanol to DME.  Water is the only significant byproduct of this refining process.

As a transportation fuel, DME can be burned in compression engines and is thus a potential substitute for diesel fuel.  Diesel engines require only minor modifications to run on DME, and DME preserves the 30 percent greater efficiency of compression engines that burn diesel over spark ignition engines that burn gasoline.  DME also has a high cetane number (which reflects good combustibility), very low emissions of NOx and CO, is sulfur free, produces no soot and is not a greenhouse gas.

A number of pilot programs involving DME are currently underway around the world.  In the U.S., MI member company Oberon Fuels, who have opened the country’s first DME production plant in California, are partnering with Volvo Trucks and Martin Transport on a demonstration project in Texas.  In California, Oberon, along with Volvo Trucks and Safeway Inc., have partnered on a demonstration project using trucks running on DME, and piloted from Safeway’s Tracy, California distribution center.

Volvo has also developed a DME fleet in cooperation with the European Union (EU).  This pilot program utilizes a wood pulp byproduct called black liquor which is converted into DME in four plants in Sweden and used to power trucks which operate as ultra-clean low emissions transport vehicles throughout Sweden.

In China, the world’s largest consumer of DME, the city of Shanghai recently announced plans for a pilot program to burn DME in test fleets of buses, taxis and commercial trucks in a bid to reduce particulate emissions while also reducing dependence on oil imports.  More information can be found here.

Norwegian Researchers Develop Methanol Poisoning Test

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Norway FlagWith a number of cases globally in which methanol is being added to alcoholic beverages and resulting in serious health consequences, identifying quickly cases of potential methanol poisoning so that life-saving treatment can be initiated has become an important challenge.

Three doctors at Norway’s Ulleval University Hospital recently developed a new test to help identify potential methanol poisoning using a strip of paper and an enzyme.  The test employs the same technology as used to test blood sugar levels, but indicates if the patient has a certain amount of formic acid in their blood. One drop of blood will cause the paper to change color after a few minutes.

If consumers ingest methanol, this is converted into formic acid in the blood (which is toxic).  The Norwegian researchers felt the simplest and most effective way to diagnose methanol poisoning would be through detection of formic acid in patients who might be suffering from the condition.

The doctors, Knut Eric Hovda, Gaut Gadeholt, and Dag Jacobsen who came up with the test note that while there are not many methanol poisonings in Norway, even in that country there are only a few hospital laboratories that analyze levels of formic acid and/or methanol in the blood, and that access to such laboratories is even more limited abroad, particularly in developing nations where the bulk of poisonings occur.  The doctors are hopeful that their test, which they say is inexpensive and reliable, will be able to be used worldwide to diagnose the condition.

The project was developed in cooperation with the company Inven2, which is owned by the University of Oslo (UiO) and Oslo University Hospital.  More information can be found here.

2014 Methanol Policy Forum Announced

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methanolforum2014In 2012, the Methanol Institute, the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and the U.S. Energy Security Council hosted the Methanol Policy Forum in Washington, D.C. bringing together industry leaders, energy policy experts, executive branch officials, Members of Congress, academics and the media to share information about methanol’s potential as a liquid transportation fuel. Against the backdrop of the shale gas revolution and a resurgence of domestic methanol production, we are holding the second Washington Methanol Policy Forum on March 18th, 2014, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.

This full-day event will kick-off with a panel of CEO’s representing the growing number of methanol producers opening plants in Louisiana, Texas and beyond. The event will provide the most up-to-date information on methanol fuel blending around the globe, with experts from China, Israel, Australia and Europe. Officials from the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency will join with technology innovators to discuss how to unlock our vehicles to methanol. Plus, there will be a special luncheon debate with members of the U.S. Energy Security Council — a “who’s who” of Washington policy leaders — on fuel choices.

With renewed interest in methanol fuels as a critical element of an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, surging domestic methanol production, and methanol fuels entering the global fleet, the Methanol Policy Forum is your opportunity to join this movement.

For more information, and to register for the forum, click here.