The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) reports the development of a solar-powered steam-methane reformer (SMR) that sits at the focal point of a parabolic dish solar concentrator. Both the SMR and associated heat exchanger for transferring energy from products to reactants use millimeter size flow channels to enhance heat and mass transfer rates, resulting in very compact design. The benchtop reactor and heat exchangers are capable of producing approximately 170 kg of syngas per day.
While the ability to capture solar energy at a cost competitive with natural gas was considered worthy of an R&D 100 award last year, the syngas created obviously has greater value as a feedstock for making hydrogen, methanol, and other derivative products. The same design approach could just as easily be used for a natural gas-fired SMR. Preliminary economic analysis of a natural gas-fired version suggests that its unit capital cost ($/kg/day) would be competitive with industrial scale SMRs 10,000 times larger.
 PNNL is operated by Battelle Memorial Institute for the U.S. Department of Energy
After two fiercely contested opening rounds of the 2015 Trophy series, sponsored in part by MI and MI member companies Methanex and OCI, crews are gearing up for a high speed third outing this weekend (31 July to 2 August) at the spiritual home of rallying. Stomach-churning gravel roads lie in store for drivers and their co-pilots in Finland, where a huge number of spectators will flock to the event based in the university town of Jyväskylä.
Experience could prove crucial on the wide and smooth gravel roads which feature blind crests and rollercoaster jumps. In addition, there are forest roads which feature a mix of hard base and more technical soft sections, making accurate pace notes, defining the lines over huge jumps, essential. In a way DDFT Finland will be the first methanol powered commercial flight!
Finland, being the spiritual home of rallying, is also the amongst the first countries, to explore the future of the sport and discuss how rallying can contribute to safe and sustainable future. Talks have been held between the Finnish ASN and GUTTS to explore renewable fuel options in the future. With GEM Fuel becoming the new standard in renewable fuel options for racing series across Europe it was defined as one of the ‘drop in’ possibilities for Finnish motorsport to reduce their carbon footprint quickly and easily.
The methanol portion in GEM Fuel is a CO2 derived Methanol produced by CRI in Iceland, with a CO2 reduction of 97%. More information can be found at http://gutts.nl
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has signed into law a transportation investment package providing financial incentives for the purchase of commercial vehicles using a “clean alternative fuel” and that specifies dimethyl ether as one of the alternative fuels that qualify for such benefits.
The legislation provides businesses with tax credits for the purchase or conversion of vehicles that are “principally powered” by a clean alternative fuel. The bill includes dimethyl ether in the definition of “clean alternative fuel”, along with methane, natural gas, LNG, CNG, propane, hydrogen, and electricity. More information is available from the International DME Association (IDA) here.
LNG has successfully been applied to vessels other than gas carriers, of course, and has demonstrated its benefits as a clean, economical alternative to liquid fuels. But it has a disadvantage, and that is in the onboard storage and processing required. Not only does this involve bulky and expensive equipment, despite the best efforts of the engine and fuel suppliers, as well as classification societies, some safety-related concerns remain. Natural gas does not have to be stored under pressure, it can be merely compressed, and CNG has been touted as a marine fuel, but for ships other than CNG carriers the size of tank required is likely to limit it to vessels operating on very short range, such as tugs and coastal ferries.
Other gases are available, of course. And although they do not solve the LNG questions – arguably bring uncertainties of their own – they do seem to be gaining ground as viable alternative fuels for ships.
Methanol is one such gas. The Stena Line freight ferry Stena Germanica has recently been converted to run its Wartsila four-stroke engines on methanol, operating between Gothenburg and Keil. According to Stena, emissions from methanol are roughly the same as for LNG, but the fuel is easier to process and does not place the same demands on infrastructure. [Note: While we understand that methanol is not a gas, the editors at Motorship apparently do not.]
Methanol can be produced from natural gas, coal, biomass or even carbon dioxide, and promises cuts in emissions of around 99% SOx, NOX by 60%, particulates 95% and 25% CO2 compared to conventional marine fuels.
The same gas has been successfully demonstrated by MAN Diesel & Turbo as a viable fuel for large two-stroke engines. Unlike the four-stroke gas and dual fuel engines, and two-strokes using a low pressure gas system, which use the Otto cycle when running on gas, MAN maintains the Diesel cycle for both oil and gas operation, which it says avoids any change in power density or load response, results in no methane slip, and hence higher carbon emissions, and avoids risk of knocking. The Diesel cycle is maintained too for the ME-LGI version of MAN’s gas engines, which employ a fuel booster valve to allow operation with low-pressure, low flashpoint fuels including methanol.
The company has received seven orders for methanol-fuelled two-stroke engines to power methanol carriers for several different owners. Vice president and head of R&D, Søren H. Jensen, says: “A number of years ago we identified the need to develop an engine that could run on more environmentally-friendly, competitively-priced fuels as an alternative to MDO/MGO. We believe the ability of the ME-LGI engine to run on sulphur-free fuels offers great potential. Methanol carriers have already operated at sea for many years. With a viable, convenient and economic fuel already on-board, exploiting a fraction of the cargo to power a vessel makes sense.” More information can be found here.
Marius Aasen clinched his maiden Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy victory with a thrilling win at Lotos Rally Poland on 5 July – the result giving him a two-point lead at the top of the championship standings.
Norwegian Aasen, aged 23, and co-driver Veronica Engan kept their cool in the searing hot temperatures to beat off the brave challenge of Britain’s Tom Cave and top the podium. Cave did all he could to wrestle victory away from his rival and triumphed on three of the 19 highly competitive stages in Poland.
A huge crowd at this weekend’s Mikolajki-based event was treated to some ultra competitive racing on soft and sandy tracks. These took away much of the mechanical stress on the drivers’ identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars. New for this year, these are driven by Ford’s 1.0 litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine and powered by sustainable GEM (gasoline, ethanol, methanol) race fuel.
The Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy is supported, in conjunction with GUTTS, by a partnership of MI members Methanex and OCI, the Methanol Institute, Abengoa and e-Pure. More information on the race results can be found here. More information on GEM fuel can be found here.
|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.