The government will soon publish a policy on the use of methanol as an alternative fuel

E-methanol, which is made from captured carbon dioxide and green hydrogen, is another method of producing methanol.

According to Prakriti Sethi, Chief Representative of India for the Methanol Institute, the Center is expected to issue a policy soon on the use of methanol as an alternative fuel. “In the coming months, positive policy developments for methanol are expected.” We are optimistic because we are collaborating with the government,” Seti said.

Since 2016, NITI-Aayog, the Centre’s think tank, has collaborated with the Methanol Institute on the “Methanol Economy” program, which aims to reduce the country’s oil import bill, greenhouse gas emissions ( GHG), and to convert coal reserves and municipal emissions. solid waste to methanol.

Sethi said that traditionally methanol was produced from coal and natural gas, with the latter producing more. “India and China have huge coal resources to produce methanol.” “However, we are currently investigating the production of bio-methanol from renewable sources such as agricultural waste and municipal solid waste,” she explained.

E-methanol, which is made from captured carbon dioxide and green hydrogen, is another method of producing methanol. Due to its abundant reserves, coal-derived methanol is the most economically viable option for India, according to NITI-Aayog. It is cheaper than natural gas and crude oil, both imported.

Sethi said methanol is cheaper than other sources such as ethanol, citing an NITI-Aayog study that compared ethanol, methanol and gasoline. Based on internal research conducted by the Ministry of Coal in collaboration with private investors, coal gasification companies and technical experts, the study concluded that the price of methanol is likely to be Rs 22-25 per kg or from 17.5 to 19.8 rupees per liter (density of methanol – 0.791 kg/litre).

Methanol Institute, which includes the world’s largest producers and distributors, has been present in the country since 2016, working with the Ministries of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Road Transport and Highways, in addition to Niti Aayog. “However, we are now looking for technical suppliers who use methanol for fuel and power generation,” Sethi explained.

The institute, in collaboration with NITI-Aayog, strives to ensure energy security and reduce India’s rising fuel bills. “We have seen significant growth in the production of indigenous resources to use methanol as an alternative over the past five years,” she says.

Since the Covid pandemic, the Center has understood the dynamics of renewable energy production, has taken an interest in it and ensured its growth. “The private sector is also interested and is conducting its own research trials and pilot project,” said the representative of the Methanol Institute in India.

“There is a significant push on the cost effectiveness of alternative fuels in an effort to provide energy security and increase current energy prices. As a result, companies are turning to methanol as an alternative fuel,” she said, adding that standards for M15 (a blend of 15% methanol with gasoline) were set in 2018.

“Indian Oil Corporation Ltd has started a pilot project on the M15 in Assam which is expected to benefit other parties. The Automobile Research Association of India has laid the groundwork by conducting trials of the M15 on two- and four wheels”, Sethi explained.

But, more importantly, a successful pilot project of methanol stoves – the methanol cooking program – has been carried out in Assam. For the pilot project conducted by NITI Aayog and Assam Petro Chemicals, 300 stoves were initially distributed.

“The cookstove market is a low-hanging fruit segment that will benefit local consumers by improving indoor air quality and reducing the risk of health hazards. The results of the pilot have been satisfactory, and we may see more methanol stove projects take off,” Seti said.

NITI-Aayog has announced that the methanol cooking program will be extended to one million households in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Manipur. Methanol, according to the representative of Methanol Institute India, is an excellent carrier of hydrogen due to its chemical properties. “The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is working on India’s Hydrogen Mission to explore how to alleviate transportation and storage issues and support the immediate adoption of hydrogen,” she explained.

The MNRE studies, among other things, commercial aspects and tariffs. Sethi said the Delhi government has issued a directive to use alternative fuel generators instead of diesel generators, which have been banned due to pollution.

“One of the effective alternative energy solutions that can be included in the list of alternative sources is methanol. We have requested the Delhi government to investigate methanol generators. It may be considered by other states with higher levels of pollution, she says.

Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd has started testing methanol generator sets. According to NITI-Aayog, Kirloskar converted a 5 KW generator to run entirely on methanol. It is now collaborating with Dor Chemicals in Israel to convert generator sets with a capacity ranging from 150 to 300 KVA/KW. Ashok Leyland has started a methanol pilot project.

In addition, five high ash coal-based methanol plants, five dimethyl ether plants and a natural gas-based methanol production plant with a capacity of 20 million tons per year are planned to be built under of a joint venture with Israel, according to NITI. -Aayog.

Cochin Shipyard Limited is building three ships and seven freighters for the Inland Inland Waterways Authority which will use methanol as marine fuel. Methanol, according to Sethi, is also used in power generation, and the Indian military has been using methanol fuel cells for some time. The National Thermal Power Corporation has announced a green methanol pilot project in Vindhyachal and plans to expand it, she said.

Thermax Ltd has successfully developed a 5 KW methanol-based reformer on a direct methanol fuel cell, according to NITI-Aayog (DMFC). This module is tested for use in mobile towers to replace DG sets.

According to Sethi, private stakeholders want to know more about the usefulness of methanol and are studying these applications in India. To help achieve the 20% ethanol goal, the industry is considering blending ethanol with methanol.

“Industry is looking at methanol to ease pressure on ethanol supplies and make the fuel more cost effective. Other parts of the world are experimenting with ethanol-methanol blends. Italy is working on A20 blends with 15% methanol and 5% ethanol in gasoline engines”, she says.

Attempts are being made to use additives to mix methanol and diesel. Methanol can be blended with diesel, according to Tim Chan, associate director, government and public affairs (Asia and Middle East), Methanol Institute. “Successful trials with a 15% methanol diesel blend have been conducted,” he said.

Sethi said to help the country in its energy transition and achieve a net zero vision, the Center should send strong policy signals similar to Europe, which offers carbon credits and incentives while penalizing defaulters in the industry. methanol. “There is a need to move the alternative fuels agenda forward by sending a strong message to diversify India’s energy mix, and methanol will play a role in this,” Seti said.

According to NITI-Aayog, saving methanol will generate nearly five million jobs, while blending dimethyl ether in LPG will save Rs 6,000 crore per year. The consumer could save between Rs 50 and Rs 100 per cylinder.

First published: June 19, 2022, 10:09 IST