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Vehicle Fuel & Thermal Applications

Passenger & Cargo Vehicles

Methanol is an affordable substitute for gasoline and diesel in countries that are looking to transition away from fuels that result in high levels of air pollution. Methanol is an alternative liquid transportation fuel due to its energy density, efficient combustion, ease of distribution and wide availability around the globe.

Additives or fuel blends – Methanol is used to manufacture methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that reduces tailpipe air emissions, and to produce fuels like biodiesel which is a diesel alternative. By 2025, the average output of biodiesel and similar fuels is anticipated to increase by 30 per cent from 2019 levels. Methanol is also used in gasoline blends around the world at high volume percentages (50-100 per cent), mid (15-30 per cent) and low blends (3-5 per cent). China currently uses such methanol blends, and countries including Israel, India, Denmark, Germany and Italy are at the assessment or near-commercial stage for low-level methanol fuel blending.

Fuel for passenger vehicles – In China, increasingly stringent air quality standards are supporting the adoption of methanol as a cleaner-burning vehicle fuel. By the end of 2021, approximately one hundred M100 (100 per cent methanol fuel) filling stations were operating in China’s Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu and Guizhou provinces to service approximately 27,000 M100 taxis (running on 100 per cent methanol).

Fuel for heavy-duty vehicles – Methanol is a diesel substitute for heavy-duty vehicles. Commercial trucks are another emerging opportunity in China, with Geely developing the world’s first pure methanol combustion heavy-duty truck. As of 2021 there were 1,000 methanol heavy duty trucks in operation in China, and Geely has ambitions to manufacture and market up to 3,000 methanol fueled trucks per year by 2025.

Thermal

Methanol can be used as a fuel for thermal applications, including industrial boilers, kilns, heating furnaces and cooking fuel. When used in thermal applications, it has significantly lower air emissions (NOx, SOx) than coal and other fossil fuels.

Industrial uses, heating and potential for power generation – Growing demand for methanol as an industrial boiler and kiln fuel has been driven largely by China, where industrial boilers are used extensively to generate heat and steam for various industrial applications and kilns. Industrial boilers have traditionally been coal-fueled in China. However, environmental regulations being phased in by the Chinese government are prompting a transition to cleaner burning fuels (including methanol) that can reduce impacts on local air quality and related human health. Chinese residential buildings, restaurants and homes are also using methanol as a lower air emission and affordable heating alternative to burning coal. Methanol is also used in power plants on remote islands in the Caribbean.

Cooking Fuel – Methanol has been used as a cleaner-burning cooking fuel in Africa, China and India for the past two decades. A 2020 study by China Association of Alcohol and Ether Clean Fuel and Automobiles found that more than half of China’s use of methanol as energy (excluding MTBE and MTO) is as cooking fuel. With 2.6 billion people around the globe relying on solid biomass, kerosene or coal as their primary cooking fuel, methanol could play a role in scaling access to cleaner cooking fuels.

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