Today, Carbon Recycling International, an Icelandic company, is the leading company making methanol from carbon dioxide. Geely invested in CRI in 2015 and they have partnered to create the world’s largest CO. build2-to-fuel plant in China. When in operation, it can store 160,000 tons of CO. to recycle2 emissions from steel mills per year.
The potential for clean production makes methanol desirable as a fuel. It is not only a more efficient way to use energy, but also a way to use existing CO. to delete2 of the air. To achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, as China has promised, the country cannot put all the eggs in one basket, like EVs. By popularizing the use of methanol fuel and the clean production of methanol, China can achieve its goal sooner.
Can methanol get past its dirty roots?
But the future isn’t all rosy and green. Currently, most of China’s methanol is still made by burning coal. In fact, the ability to run cars using coal instead of oil, which China doesn’t have much of, was a major reason the country turned to methanol in the first place. Today, the Chinese provinces leading the way in methanol car experiments are also those that have abundant coal resources.
But as Bromberg says, unlike gas and diesel, at least methanol has the potential be green. Methanol production can still have a high carbon footprint today, just as most EVs in China are still powered by electricity generated from coal. But there is a path to moving from coal-produced methanol to renewable-sourced methanol.
“If that’s not the intention — if people aren’t going to pursue low-carbon methanol — you really don’t want to use methanol at all,” Bromberg says.
Methanol fuel also has other potential drawbacks. It has a lower energy density than petrol or diesel, requiring larger, heavier fuel tanks, or drivers may need to refuel more often. This also effectively prevents methanol from being used as jet fuel.
In addition, methanol is highly toxic when ingested and moderate when inhaled or when humans are exposed to it in large amounts. Potential harm was a major concern during the pilot program, although the researchers concluded that methanol was found to be no more toxic to participants than gas.
Outside of China, some other countries, such as Germany and Denmark, are also exploring the potential of methanol fuels. However, China is at least one step ahead of the rest, even if it remains a big question whether it will repeat its success in developing EVs or follow the path of another country with a large auto industry.
In 1982, California offered grants to automakers to make more than 900 methanol cars in a pilot program. The Reagan administration even pushed for the Alternative Motor Fuels Act to promote the use of methanol. But a lack of advocacy and the falling price of gasoline prevented further research into methanol fuel, and pilot drivers, while generally satisfied with the performance of their cars, complained about the availability of methanol fuel and the shorter range compared to gas-powered cars. . California officially stopped using methanol cars in 2005, and there has been no experimentation in the US since.