Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, is a clear and colorless liquid at room temperature. Methanol is water soluble and biodegradable and represented by the chemical formula CH3OH.
Due to its many desirable properties and applications annual production has increased steadily, exceeding 80 million tons globally in 2018. It is commonly used as raw material in the manufacturing of chemical products such as plastics, glue, building materials, paint and solvents. It is also a highly effective energy carrier, increasingly being used as a clean burning fuel. As a single carbon molecule, it burns cleanly and does not form soot or particles.
Methanol can be used in both internal combustion engines and fuel cells. As a combustion fuel, methanol has high octane rating (109 RON compared to 95 RON for standard gasoline), which allows for higher efficiency of conversion into mechanical energy compared to gasoline or diesel.
Methanol can be blended with gasoline and each liter of gasoline may contain up to 3% methanol, according to the European fuel standard. Blends of 15% methanol in gasoline are already in use in China and being tested in Australia, Italy, India and Israel. The use of 100% methanol in light vehicles, buses and trucks is also being promoted by authorities in China.
Methanol is used in the production of biodiesel and can also be used to make synthetic fuels such as gasoline or fuel ethers (DME, MTBE, OME etc.) which are suitable either for diesel or gasoline engines. Methanol is also a growing fuel for marine engines, industrial boilers and cookstoves, due to its ease of handling and clean combustion.
Like all fuels Methanol needs to be handled appropriately and with care to ensure safety. .