Energy blog



Kimmo Klemola

This is a study carried out by the Technical Research Centre of Finland:

Main points:

"The production of methanol from biomass, or other solid feedstocks like coal, or natural gas involves several similar process units. First, raw material containing carbon and hydrogen is converted to synthesis gas and then methanol is produced catalytically from the produced synthesis gas."

"The cost of biomethanol is 2 to 4 times higher than that of gasoline or methanol made from natural gas. Subsidies or tax incentives would be needed to introduce the biomass-based methanol to the market."

The problem is the same as for almost any renewable: Fossil economy beats the renewable economy. In Middle East gas fields, methanol megaplants have been built and are being built with all the time decreasing production costs. Market price for methanol is about 60 cents a gallon.

Emissions trading, subsidies, tax incentives and progress in technology may change the situation to some degree locally. In Finland, limited methanol economy is possible. We have huge pulp and paper industry. If paper market goes dramatically down, the factories are quite easily modified to methanol reactors.

However, a lot should happen to change the profitable (well at least profitable most of the time) pulp and paper business to negative profit methanol business. In near term, the only reason could be national security, something like FischerTropsch in WW2 Germany or apartheid South Africa.

Various sources can be used to produce synthesis gas, and various products can be made from synthesis gas. Methanol is just one choice. See the chart below:


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