Methanol (CH3OH), also known as wood alcohol, is the most basic alcohol compound. It has a similar structure to methane, with a hydroxyl group (OH) replacing one of Methane’s hydrogen atoms. As an alcohol its chemical and physical properties are much like ethanol, and it can be used as an alternative fuel in M85 (methanol blend) flex fuel vehicles.
This fuel is commonly produced by steam reforming various feedstocks to create a synthesis gas, which is then fed into a catalytic reactor. The resulting products include methanol and water vapor. Of the various feedstocks (any organic material: wood, coal, biomass, etc.) that can be used to produce methanol, natural gas is currently the most common
Methanol was marketed in the early 1990s as an alternative fuel for internal combustion engine vehicles. The benefits of methanol include: lower production costs, lower risk of flammability compared to gasoline (although when methanol does burn, it burns with a clear flame that is almost invisible in daylight, creating detection problems), and increased energy security. At its peak, nearly 6 million gasoline gallon equivalents of 100% methanol and 85% methanol/15% gasoline blends were used annually in alternative fuel vehicles in the United States. However, it is not commonly used today because automakers are no longer manufacturing methanol vehicles.
Methanol has since been classified as an emerging alternative fuel, due to new opportunities for a methanol resurgence in the future alternative fuel market. Primarily, the recent discovery of abundant, domestic natural gas reserves has greatly increased the availability of Methanol’s primary feedstock. Also, in 2011 the Open Fuel Standard Act was introduced to congress, which proposed that all vehicles sold in the U.S. must operate on mixed fuels -containing an 85% blend of ethanol, methanol, or biodiesel - or any other alternative fuel source. Additionally, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is researching methanol fuel cell technology.
Methanol Fueling Stations
There are currently no fueling stations for methanol