About CRI and Renewable Methanol

What is Methanol Economy?
The Methanol Economy conceives that recycling carbon dioxide into methanol to produce fuels and synthetic hydrocarbons could replace diminishing fossil fuel resources and mitigate global warming. Nobel Prize Laureate, George Olah tells us how to do it here.

How do you make Renewable Methanol?
Renewable Methanol (RM) is derived from renewable energy of geothermal wells, wind, solar or hydroelectricity. It is distinctive from methanol which is made from fossil based sources. The production of Renewable Methanol is clean with only water as the byproduct. Click here to learn more about CRI process.

How is methanol used?
Methanol is essential to our daily lives. You can find methanol in the silicone that goes into your shampoo, the PET which makes your plastic bottle of water. You can also find methanol in many of the components of your car, possibly including the fuel you put in it. Methanol can be blended into gasoline at low percentages in accordance with EU regulations. Higher blends of methanol and gasoline were tested in California in '90s. It costs approximately 150-500 USD to convert an ordinary car to run on an 85% methanol-gasoline blend. Methanol can also be used to produce biodiesel, a growing market in both North America and Europe.

Why do we need to produce Renewable Methanol?
European regulations require increasing percentages of renewable fuel to be blended into gasoline. In 2005, the EU put mandatory targets in place limiting the emission of greenhouse gases for all EU countries. The use of Renewable Methanol would help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and decrease carbon dioxide from industrial processes. These targets were combined with a cap and trade system, the European Trading Scheme (ETS) for the trading of carbon emission credits. The ETS is consistent with, but independent from, the Kyoto Protocol. As coal becomes increasingly expensive due to EU legislation, European heavy industry will consider cleaner fuels to reduce CO2 from emissions. CRI's RM is a particularly attractive alternative fuel due its European origins and carbon neutral production process. RM produced by CRI from CO2 and renewable resources would have the further advantage of decreasing Europe's dependence on fossil fuel and also reduce emissions to meet the Kyoto targets.

How is methanol different from ethanol?
Methanol and ethanol are both alcohols with similar properties. Alcohols are used in blending with gasoline. Ethanol derives from land use and competes with food production. Renewable Methanol uses waste energy and carbon dioxide from industrial emissions as feedstock.

How close is CRI to commercialization?
CRI has been operating its Pilot Scale Plant in Reykjavik, Iceland since August 2007. CRI completed its First Commercial Plant, the George Olah Renewable Methanol Plant in late 2011. Click here to learn more about our facilities.

Why is Iceland the first market?
Iceland has one of the highest per capita car uses in the world (637 per 1000 inhabitants in 2005) . While it uses a large amount of renewable energy for heating and electricity, it uses almost none for transportation. The availability of geothermal power (as both a source of carbon dioxide and as electricity) makes Iceland an excellent location for producing renewable methanol. This renewable methanol can help to ease the dependence on oil in Iceland. CRI renewable methanol has about 75% lower greenhouse gas emissions than standard fuel.

Renewable Methanol can be used as a blend (up to 10% with conventional engines) or as an alternative fuel (85% blend with gasoline) in flex-fuel vehicles. Methanol can also be used in biodiesel production or in direct or indirect fuel cells. These fuel cells can be used in cars or as alternatives to lithium ion batteries, for example.

Methanol's primary competitor in the renewable fuels market is ethanol. Methanol and ethanol are interchangeable as octane enhancers, as oxygenates to get rid of pollutants, clean combustion agents, and for low carbon content when mixed with gasoline. Unlike ethanol, however, Renewable Methanol does not compete with food (directly, as in corn ethanol, or indirectly, through competing land use).

Methanol has several advantages over ethanol for use as a fuel. First, it has low pollution. Emissions from methanol cars are low in hydrocarbons (which cause smog) compared to other fuels. It also has a versatile feedstock, which can include natural gas, coal and biomass. It is less flammable than gasoline, and is high-octane which provides excellent vehicle power. Methanol is not persistent in the environment. It dissolves completely when mixed with water, unlike oil, and it is easily broken down by microorganisms in the soil and water. Finally, it has economies of scale, which can bring down the price to be competitive with gasoline. This is not the case with ethanol, which is dependent on a finite amount of land for production.

Iceland currently does not require renewable fuels to be used in the country. Renewable methanol would be able to avoid the gas tax in Iceland, making it relatively competitive with gasoline. Imported ethanol does not classify for the same tax benefits, and thus would be much more expensive than methanol. The EU has implemented various directives that call for countries to use increasing amounts of biofuels. The most recent directive in 2009 called for sustainability criteria to be applied to biofuels. This means that the overall lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions should be taken into account when using biofuels. If CRI's renewable methanol were able to qualify as renewable fuel under this directive, it would have an advantage over ethanol because of its lower lifecycle emissions. 

Is methanol safe?
As with many other fuels, methanol can be highly toxic and should never be ingested. However, it should be noted that the human body can metabolize and eliminate low concentrations of methanol with no ill effects. Methanol is present in many cooked vegetables, and the artificial sweetener in diet soft drinks breaks down into methanol during digestion. Methanol becomes poisonous only when it overwhelms the body's capacity to remove it. Effective antidotes to methanol poisoning are readily available and can be administered during this interim period.