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By Robert Rapier on May 21, 2010 with 164 responses

Methanol versus Ethanol: Technical Merits and Political Favoritism

The previous essay sparked a lively discussion about the potential of methanol as a fuel, so I decided to write an essay particularly devoted to methanol. I was especially motivated to write this because of hypocrites who profess to be all about renewable energy and weaning the U.S. off of foreign oil – which explains their rabid support for corn ethanol – and then when the conversation turns to methanol they start to bad mouth it.

When talking about methanol, hypocrites will tell you that “it is toxic.” But these people have never raised that issue over highly toxic denatured ethanol. They speculate that capital costs will be low for cellulosic ethanol but high for methanol. They complain about the lower energy density of methanol, but bring up ethanol and they will tell you all about the possibilities of designing engines to compensate for ethanol’s lower energy density relative to gasoline. Yet they don’t mention any possibility of optimizing engines for methanol. It simply has less energy. End of story.

They will talk about ethanol being pragmatic and practical, ignoring the fact that 1). The energy return on the process is very low, hence practicality is enabled by low fossil fuel prices; 2). The “practicality” is only there because of heavy lobbying which led to very generous federal subsidies and mandates; 3). The vision of next generation practicality is because people sometimes make very wild extrapolations on costs for cellulosic ethanol (which we aren’t allowed to do with methanol, because after all, it isn’t practical).

Ethanol’s “pragmatism” is far more due to the fact that it has lobbying organizations like Growth Energy, The American Coalition for Ethanol, and the Renewable Fuels Association spending millions of dollars per year to constantly tell the public and the politicians how pragmatic ethanol is – which by the way we need to keep subsidizing and protecting with tariffs. Methanol doesn’t have that advantage, thus it is “impractical.”

Let’s address some of the silliness right now.

As has been pointed out, you can buy methanol today for around $1.00 per gallon. This is a big, well-established business that does not receive heavy subsidies and government support as ethanol does. On a per BTU basis, unsubsidized methanol costs $17.61 per million BTUs. You can buy ethanol today – ethanol that has received billions in taxpayer subsidies – for $1.60 per gallon. On a per BTU basis, heavily subsidized and mandated ethanol sells for $21.03 per million BTUs. (See the energy tables here).

Yes, you read that correctly. We are paying 20% more for ethanol enabled via highly paid lobbyists, heavy government intervention, taxpayer funds, and protectionist tariffs than we are for methanol that has long been produced subsidy-free. Yet ethanol is “practical.” (If we make that gallon per gallon comparison that ethanol proponents like to make when comparing gasoline to less energy dense ethanol, then ethanol costs 60% more than methanol).

Of course ethanol proponents will tell you that commercial cellulosic ethanol is just around the corner, as it has been for 100 years. Ethanol fans will point to projections of companies like Fiberight who suggest that someday they will produce cellulosic ethanol for $1.65 per gallon. “Ha! Top that!” – say the ethanol proponents. The problem is that they do not understand the context of such projections. If I plug methanol into that same model – produce it from biomass and assume generous tipping fees – my methanol projections can come in at under $0.50 per gallon. But methanol doesn’t have a big lobby and 42 senators from farm states it can count on for perpetual support.

Ethanol opponents and/or gasoline proponents will point out the issue with ethanol’s 76,000 BTU/gal energy content versus gasoline’s 115,000 BTU/gal energy content. The ethanol proponents will say “but, but ethanol has a higher octane. Therefore you could design an engine with a higher compression ratio to even out that energy deficit.” Then when the talk turns to methanol, those same people will say “But methanol has a lower energy content than ethanol.” These people are no longer interested in optimized engines; they only wish to point out that methanol has lower energy content.

The fact is, methanol simply has not had the same sort of political favoritism, but is in my opinion a far superior option to ethanol as a viable, long-term energy option for the world. Here is why I believe that. As already pointed out, we had a thriving methanol industry long before the government created (and continues to support) via our taxpayer funds a thriving ethanol industry. So in my opinion methanol wins the first generation battle on the technical and economic merits, and loses the very important political battle.

But the next generation is what is going to be important. Biomass only contains 30-50% cellulose, and a very large fraction of the biomass will be inaccessible for a cellulosic ethanol process. After a series of complex steps, a very dilute solution of ethanol can be produced, which then must undergo an energy intensive distillation process. Of course you can use the remaining lignin fraction for process heat, after it undergoes an energy-intensive drying process. So I may project that I can produce it cheaply if I pretend someone is going to pay me a lot to relieve them of their biomass – but I will never, EVER, make it efficiently. That is simply the nature of the beast. But in my opinion a high utilization of the available BTUs will be a very high priority in an energy-constrained future.

For methanol, we can produce it from biomass via a similar process to how it is produced for $1.00 per gallon today. There are numerous biomass gasifiers out there. Some are even portable. They do not require high fossil fuel inputs and they utilize a much larger fraction of the biomass. They aren’t limited to cellulose. They gasify everything – cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, sugars, proteins – all organic components. And if there is also a heating application, the combined heat and fuel/power efficiency of a biomass to methanol via gasification route is going to put cellulosic ethanol to shame. In any case, the efficiency of biomass gasification to methanol is going to put cellulosic ethanol to shame, because it doesn’t have to deal with all of that water present in the ethanol process.

(RR: Edited to remove a YouTube video on a modular methanol unit).

Finally, ethanol is inappropriate as a replacement for distillate fuels. Methanol, on the other hand, is easily converted to di-methyl-ether (DME), which is a very nice distillate replacement. China already has a big head start on the rest of the world, as they saw the potential for DME while the U.S. was spending billions to build an ethanol industry. (See my story: Keep Your Eye on DME).

So the next time an ethanol hypocrite tells you how good ethanol is relative to gasoline, but then turns around and tells you how bad methanol is relative to ethanol, you may want to explain that they have confused political favoritism for technical merits. (Or you can conclude that they have a vested ethanol interest). When they explain how first generation corn ethanol is paving the way for cellulosic ethanol, point out that both first generation and second generation methanol will beat the cost of ethanol on a per gallon – and more importantly on an energy equivalent basis. When they argue about methanol’s toxicity, ask them about the last time they drank denatured ethanol or gasoline (or how many people are impacted each year by alcoholism). When they point out that subsidized ethanol is becoming more competitive with gasoline, ask them if they have priced unsubsidized methanol lately. Such is the nature of hypocrisy. Their solution is good, and yours is bad even if it shares the same qualities as theirs.

The fact is, it isn’t a bias against ethanol that causes me to favor methanol. I favor methanol because my view is long-term, and not based on political favoritism or a half-cycle of the very cyclical energy industry. Ethanol has yet to even see one full cycle of the energy roller-coaster, which oil refiners can tell you is brutal. Ethanol producers are further tied to the cyclical nature of commodity foods. For these reasons, I simply do not believe ethanol will be a viable long-term answer to oil depletion, and the only reason it appears to have promise now is we have the luxury of subsidizing and mandating the industry which remains heavily reliant on cheap corn and cheap energy.

Now if someone can figure out how to efficiently gasify biomass and convert it to ethanol (which was the Range Fuels model), I will certainly change my tune.

  1. By rrapier on May 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    So, you want to gasify biomass to produce Methanol. Fair enough.

    Do you have a “Price” for that?

    Am I making the same kinds of assumptions the would-be cellulosic producers are making in their projections? If I compare apples to apples and use their models, I can probably come in at half of their projected costs.

    RR

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  2. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    So, you want to gasify biomass to produce Methanol. Fair enough.

    Do you have a “Price” for that?

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  3. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Poet, Chancellors

    http://www.pipestonestar.com/S…..?SID=26559

    where they’ve replaced 60% of their nat gas with wood waste, and landfill gas.

    Chippewa Valley is in the process of replacing the majority of its nat gas with corn cobs. Of course, if the corn cobs to ethanol thing gets going Poet, and the others that use this technology, will produce all of their cellulosic, and most of their corn process energy with lignin.

    What was the “cost” on that “Methanol from biomass gasification,” again?

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  4. By Walt on May 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I just saw the blog, and certainly was pleased to see our short video.

    The question on gasification to methanol is something we have not studied entirely, but I can say that we have done a lot of work on the conversion of methane to methanol. Most gasifiers make syngas rather than methane, but if you can find the right gasifier to make the right syngas ratios then you can make methanol. The key to our methane-to-methanol process is that we convert methane and not syngas to methanol. I know that syngas is the preferred intermediate for all companies, but here is what I recently told an audience of oil & gas GTL technologists.

    Compare the cost to make syngas (basically 1 step) to the cost using GasTechno to make methanol (1 step) from natural gas. The lower CAPEX in this first step is substantial between the two technologies, and further, we would argue that “methanol” is an intermediate as useful as “syngas” is an intermediate. Reduce the first step…and the rest of the products that come downstream of syngas will come downstream of methanol more cheaply.

    Biogas, biomethane, landfill gas, and natural gas are great feedstocks for our process, and the costs represented above are within our reach at FAR SMALLER scales than what the syngas proponents want to admit.

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  5. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    This might have been in the video, but my adobe is “flashed out.” Does anyone have a youtube link for the video? Also, did the video give any “Costs” for biomass to methanol?”

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  6. By GreenEngineer on May 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    FYI, a typo in paragraph 9:

    “But methanol has a lower energy content than methanol.”

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  7. By Wendell Mercantile on May 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Let’s face it, methanol has never had the political clout of corn ethanol, and that political clout is the only thing that has raised corn ethanol to the point it is at today.

    As RR pointed out so well, based on technical merit alone, methanol would have been a sounder choice to lead us to energy independence, provide jobs for Americans, and let us stop paying out the nose for imported oil. All admirable goals as Rufus has pointed out so often, and had the same money that went to corn ethanol in subsidies and tax credits over the last 20 years gone to building a methanol infrastructure instead, we’d no doubt be near energy independence now.

    But methanol doesn’t offer the huge advantage of providing economic benefits for the 21 farm states and the 42 senators they have in the U.S. Congress.

    It’s unfortunate it can be so difficult for technical merit to trump political influence.

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  8. By GreenEngineer on May 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Robert,

    Thank you; as always, a very informative analysis.

    A question about methanol: how does it handle water, and does it cause corrosion problems in ferrous metals?

    I believe these questions are related, in that ethanol’s tendency to uptake water means that it can rust out non-stainless steel (but correct me if I misunderstand). I have thought that a major, but largely underemphasized, problem with ethanol is that it is not compatible with our existing fuel distribution infrastructure. So a major shift to ethanol (aside from all its other issues) would necessitate rebuilding our nation’s liquid fuel infrastructure, which is hardly something we can afford to do. Nor would it be a sound investment, if electrified transport is going to be the primary long term solution.

    Does methanol have this problem too?

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  9. By Walt on May 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Rufus, the video is here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..8xv8ZGGsfA

    If you want Capex, Opex and Cost of production figures, let me know the specs of the biogas you want to convert to methanol. If you want the costs to convert biomass into biogas, I believe they are available everywhere at different scales of production. If you give me the price of biogas or natural gas, I can tell you the price of methanol.

    If you are interested in a truly integrated “biorefinery” where we take the biomass and convert it into methanol, formalin, ethanol and CO2 credits, then that is a bit more complicated model. We built it for the DOE in two grants that were rejected…all the money went to mostly biomass-to-ethanol projects, or just plane ethanol projects. In our case we used algae as our feedstock, but I can almost guarantee our fuel output volumes and revenue streams were equal to or much better than those who received millions to test their idea.

    You are right on point to speak in terms of economics…and that is all dependent on scale of plant. If ethanol can do what we can do at our scales, and without subsidies, than fantastic. If not, then please don’t be so negative about methanol. I think the message above is clear to me…as I am in the heart of the battle on these issues. I’m happy to see someone neutral raise the issues in this forum.

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    • By Martin Halvorson on April 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      I’m really interested in hearing from anyone who has scalable ways of turning wood waste into methanol.  Yup, I realize that you can just chop it up and put it in a still, but there is sooooo much tripe to sort through on the internet to find the kernels of truth.  Walt, I’d really like to have a look at the numbers you’re talking about, because I’ve got a virtually unlimited source of fiber, capital, and political will to make something happen.

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      • By Walt on April 30, 2012 at 3:39 am

        Martin,

        I am not an expert on wood waste conversion to biogas or biomethane, but that is a required first step for us. We currently have our plant set-up running straight pipeline gas that is 99% methane, and make methanol easily. The economics at today’s natural gas prices makes it very sensible for us to just use pipeline gas.

        Unless you are aware of a government subsidy for biomass to methanol, I recommend you make electricity or CNG for transportation fuel in cars as I understand the RINs allows you to get like $10+/mcf. Methanol currently is not chosen for any credits as I understand, and I have written to EPA a couple times without any response to this question.

        ————–
        If a producer generates RINs for cellulosic methanol, and then combusts that methanol in the producer’s boiler, can the producer separate and retain the RINs?

        A: Renewable fuel for which RINs can be generated is that which is transportation fuel, heating oil, or jet fuel. Methanol does not qualify as transportation fuel unless it is designated for use in a vehicle or engine specifically designed to use it, and it does not qualify as heating oil or jet fuel because it does not meet the definition for either of these fuel types. Moreover, there is currently no approved pathway in Table 1 to 80.1426 for methanol. Therefore, RINs cannot currently be generated for renewable methanol.
        ————

        Hope this helps.

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  10. By rrapier on May 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    FYI, a typo in paragraph 9:

    “But methanol has a lower energy content than methanol.”

     

    Got it. Thanks. One of those last second edits.

     

    Great to see you here. I will respond a bit later to various questions and comments. Work has gotten busy this morning.

     

    RR

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  11. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Walt, thanks for the link.

    Okay, let’s keep it simple. I want 10 Million gallons of Methanol/yr. I want it to be produced from biomass. I want to buy it in Tunica, Ms.

    What will it cost me? Setting aside all possible subsidies, and what-not, what is the minimum price at which you would be profitable?

    Oh, let’s stipulate a biomass feedstock cost of $50.00/ton delivered to your plantgate.

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  12. By Michael Cain on May 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    There have been multiple catalysts identified for methanol-to-gasoline conversion, although the processes appear to require additional work to be really practical. Clearly, such gasoline would be significantly more expensive than using the methanol directly, but sidesteps all of the downstream complaints about toxicity, corrosion, invisible flame, etc.

    Still, I suspect that in the long run, personal transportation is going to have to shift away from internal combustion engines entirely.

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  13. By rrapier on May 21, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Oh, let’s stipulate a biomass feedstock cost of $50.00/ton delivered to your plantgate.

     

    If that is a bone dry ton, then you are talking about approximately 7500 BTUs/lb (with lots of variations depending on the kind of biomass). Thus, the cost of feedstock is $3.33 per million btus. If you gasify and produce methanol, I would conservatively estimate the efficiency at 60% (Walt, do you have a number for your process that you can share?) Therefore, the embedded cost of biomass in the methanol is going to be $5.56.

     

    Ethanol, on the other hand, is starting from a position in which only 30-50% is even available to be converted. In reality, conversion efficiencies of 40-45% are reached, and the rest of the biomass must be burned to fuel the process. With methanol, you produce lots of excess heat from the gasification that can be used to make steam, electricity, etc.

     

    Bottom line? Fiberight is certainly not assuming $50/ton in their projections of $1.65 per gallon. They are assuming the somebody is paying them at least $50/ton to take it. But given that methanol is currently selling for $1/gal from $4/mmbtu natural gas, it isn’t going to cost a whole lot more to produce methanol from $3.33/mmbtu biomass. Applying Rufus thinking, let’s say $1.10, or I can be really conservative and go to $1.20. Unsubsidized. (I guarantee you that you can do it for under $1.50, and with $50/ton biomass Fiberight is going to come in above $2 (probably well above $2 to be honest) and still require lots of subsidies to move forward).

     

    Walt, you want to run through some economics for us?

     

    RR

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  14. By Kit P on May 21, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    RR edit: Kit’s completely worthless reply has been deleted. Kit, try much harder next time, or just keep your mouth shut if you have nothing to add.

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  15. By rrapier on May 21, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Rufus said:

    Walt, I have no idea how to read what you just put up. Carbon Credits?

    Look, I’m just trying to figure out what I’ll have to Pay for biomass-derived Methanol delivered to my station in Tunica, Ms. No subsidies, no carbon credits.

    Why does no one want to give me that number?


     

    I have given you numbers and Walt gave you numbers. Why have you not responded to those? I told you that using Fiberight assumptions (which I can assure you go beyond just free biomass) I can come in at $0.50 per gallon. In the real world, though, where Fiberight will come in conservatively at $2.50, I can come in at $1.50.

     

    RR

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  16. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I will cede that Fiberight is looking at, probably “free” biomass. On the other hand, anyone that was going to “pay” for feedstock wouldn’t start out with Paper. They would, almost surely, be looking at something easier, say switchgrass, or corn cobs.

    Inbicon is producing quite a bit of electricity, I believe, with the spare lignin, and Poet is looking at using it to process their corn to ethanol. Genera is going to pelletize it, and sell it to power plants to burn with their coal.

    All that being said, the operative question is, after all is said and done, what is a good estimate for the plant-gate selling price of “Methanol from gasification of Biomass?”

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  17. By petes on May 21, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Yeah, we all really needed to know what it is, or isn’t worth Kit P’s time to read. It has to be time to ban this troll. If I get banned myself for stating the obvious, it will have been well worth it.

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  18. By Walt on May 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    InRobert Rapier said:

    Walt, you want to run through some economics for us?

     


     

    I would need to calculate the biomass to biogas, or biomethane (preferred).  Those calculations are not used often by us since we focus mainly on the our solution that is an “add-on” to the biodigester plant, landfill gas, natural gas, flared gas feedstock.  If you want to provide me the methane inlet volume, pressure, specification and cost….then I can quickly give you an answer.  The volume of methane is important because it determines the scale of the plant.

    Currently there are two pilot/demo scale technologies in development that use syngas/gasification type processes which scale down to 50 million cubic feet of gas per day and make money.  This is an approximate $200 million dollar plant cost (CAPEX).  If they scale down further, they are not economic due to the cost of the first syngas step in the process.

    Our scale starts at 500,000 cubic feet and goes to 30 million cubic feet economically due to removing the syngas step.  It is all about scale of plant size.  If you want to consider apples to apples, then give me the volume of methane or its equalivant and we can run numbers.  Otherwise, I will need to work on designing the biodigester system and feed the biomass and create the methane…it will take a bit of time.

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  19. By Walt on May 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Rufus said:

    All that being said, the operative question is, after all is said and done, what is a good estimate for the plant-gate selling price of “Methanol from gasification of Biomass?”


     

    I need to know the scale and volume.  That is the litmus test.  Anyone quoting prices of any “selling price” or “cost of production” is just marketing, and I’ve seen it with those claiming $1.00 per gallon ethanol prices.  I ask what scale, and size of plant, and they won’t tell me due to it is “proprietary” or “confidential” to disclose.

    Fair enough, but I can say my production cost is higher at 500,000 cubic feet than it is at 30 million cubic feet.  If I say that I can make gasoline from methanol using our process at $1.65 per gallon, and publish it to get press coverage, I should say what scale plant it is at to be fair.   If I spend $10 million on a plant, my costs will be X.  If I spent $250 million on a larger plant, my costs will X.  If like the Shell Pearl project in Qatar they spend north of $12 Billion on the plant, their costs will be X.  This is the reality we face.

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  20. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    That $200 Million Plant – How many gallons of Methanol do you get from that, and at what price can you profitably sell it?

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  21. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I’m not crazy about using Fiberight, because they’re using a hard to process feedstock – paper, and the cost is complicated by “tipping fees,” and the cost of “sorting.”.

    However, Poet, and Novozymes agree that they can convert corn cobs, profitably, somewhere in the $2.00 range. Genera, and Dupont-Danisco seem to be in the same ballpark for switchgrass.

    What would be the “ballpark” number for delivering 10 Million gallons/yr of Methanol to Tunica, Ms?

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  22. By Walt on May 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    M85 Price Based Upon 30 mmscfd gas feed, vs. Gasoline at the Pump
    5/3/2010

    CAPEX:
    ISBL = $38MM
    OSBL = $39MM
    Other = $23MM
    Total = $100MM

    OPEX (cash):
    Fixed = $4.3MM
    Variable = $16.3MM (based on $1.5/mcf)…however, price below is $0.00/mcf
    Total = $20.6MM

    Production:
    Methanol = 179,000 mtpa
    Formalin = 196,000 mtpa (no stabilizer)
    Ethanol = 15,000 mtpa
    Carbon Credits = 366,000 tCO2e per year
    ———————————————–
    Methanol $0.23
    Gasoline $2.27

    M85 $0.54

    Mark-Ups $0.38

    M85 Pump Price $0.92

    Methanol Energy Content 56,800
    Gasoline Energy Content 114,000

    M85 Energy Content 65,380

    Energy Content Ratio 1.65

    Effective Price $2.25 vs. $1.51
    ———————————–
    Please tell me your detailed numbers now Rufus…as you certainly appear to be either working for someone, or really do not like Methanol. What is it?

    Who do you know who will put out these numbers??? Believe me, nobody, I’ve been presenting for 3 years on the technology, and few if any lay out the numbers unless it is funded by the US Government and they are required.

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  23. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Walt, I have no idea how to read what you just put up. Carbon Credits?

    Look, I’m just trying to figure out what I’ll have to Pay for biomass-derived Methanol delivered to my station in Tunica, Ms. No subsidies, no carbon credits.

    Why does no one want to give me that number?

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  24. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I’m just asking what it costs. From that you extrapolate that I “Hate” methanol.

    I don’t even “Know” Methanol.

    Then you start with the ad homs – that I’m “working for” someone.

    Would you Agree that something was a “Good Deal” if no one would/could tell you the price?

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  25. By Walt on May 21, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Rufus said:

    I’m just asking what it costs. From that you extrapolate that I “Hate” methanol.


     

    I never said anything about Hate…those are your words…not mine.

    I recommend you do your own research.  I have no intention to quote you methanol prices delivered to your location.  I recommend you contact Methanex or a trader in Houston.  We are a new technology just moving into demonstration scale…without government subsidies, VCs, or any outside investors.  I recommend you invest is ethanol…it is the hot market and money is freely available.  Our focus has been to move the technology outside of America to markets like China, Africa and Southeast Asia where methanol is of more interest than ethanol.

    Just go to the Methanex website as previously suggested, and get methanol for $1.00 per gal. delivered Houston.  Calculate your own freight.

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  26. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I other words, Walt, “it’s a really grreat deal, but you can’t give me a price.” Is that right? Methanex is Nat Gas derived methanol, isn’t it? We were discussing “biomass-derived” methanol.

    Bingo! We have a Winner! RR is coming in at $1.50 gal for biomass-derived methanol in Tunica. I’ll be looking for my order-form in the mail.

    Lets see, 76/57 = 0.75 So, Considering the Octane is about the same, $2.00 cellulosic and $1.50 methanol would be just about a draw, wouldn’t it? Other than the part about methanol being a little more corrosive, and the inconvenience of having to fill up more often, anyway.

    However, $1.50 really does sound like a heck of a deal. You know where it really sounds like a deal? The Northwest (or anywhere they have all those “beetle-killed” trees.) That price beats the dickens out of KL’s $3.50 for “gasified” ethanol.

    $1.50 / Gallon. Pretty Good.

    Would you sign off on that Walt?

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  27. By Rufus on May 21, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    What would a plant like that cost, Robert? One that could turn out 10 million gallons/yr? Or, 25 mgpy if that would be more cost efficient?

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  28. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 4:10 am

    You could give methanol away and it still wouldn’t see wide adoption. Price isn’t always the deciding factor. Natural gas and electricity are also in the $1.00 a gallon range. Neither of those has been widely adopted either. As with NG and electricity,methanol will severely limit a vehicles range. Perhaps by 50% or more. An even bigger drawback is its corrosive nature. It eats through metal. If we switched to M10 today,our transportation fleet would be in scrapyards by the end of summer.

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    • By Matt Roberts on February 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Perry – Low level methanol blends do not eat through modern mechanics and fuel lines, because the autos have made these vehicles to resiust ethanol blends.  The idea of more corrosive vs. less corrosive is kind of a red herring – things are either corrosive to a material or that material is resistant.  M10 and M15 blends are used every day in China in cars of all kinds, without prior modifications.  They use MeOH like we use ethanol – it makes up about 7% of their annual gasoline pool.Low-level blends of methanol do not limit vehicle range as much as you are implying either.  We could esily extend the gasoline/ethanol pool in this country by including methanol, taking advantage of its low cost and the fact that it can be made from almost anything (including CO2 pollution itself – which cannot be used to make ethanol, and before you say it, yes it is being commercially produced already, check out Carbon Recycling International).Don’t be so dismissive of things just because you don’t understand them, that can very greatly limit your options and pursuits.  Take a look around and spend some time reading up on some of the larger dynamics at play here.  The fear mongering that you are embracing demonstrates that the interest groups are pretty darn effective.Cheers! 

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  29. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Perry said:

    You could give methanol away and it still wouldn’t see wide adoption.
    Price isn’t always the deciding factor…It eats through metal. If we switched to M10 today,our transportation fleet would be in scrapyards by the end of summer.


     

    You might want to replace biodiesel with ethanol rather than methanol if you cannot use it at 10% due to your comment.  Let me know how that goes.  It is an error to say something like methanol would not be adopted if it were given away.  China and Southeast Asia has adopted it over ethanol and billions of people would take it for free…even though you would not.  Your logic makes no sense to me.  I can say with a high degree of confidence that gasoline and ethanol prices will be going up at the pumps…so let’s see if you opinion holds over the next 5 years.

    I suspect I will be moving our methanol technology to China, and help Methanex to access the USA market.  We import about 90% methanol now since ADM did their magic in California. http://www.state.gov/documents…../51052.pdf

    It is the type of statements you make above that come up with those writing the legislation to remove methanol from funding to help companies like ours, but give the handouts to the ethanol technologies.  As both alcohols, their should be more support and less controversy.  A good report which appealed to both methanol and ethanol lobbies to work together is here:

    Extending the Supply of Alcohol Fuels for Energy Security and Carbon Reduction
    R.J. Pearson and J.W.G. Turner
    Lotus Engineering, Norwich, Norfolk, UK
    M.D. Eisaman and K.A. Littau
    Palo Alto Research Center, Palo Alto, CA, USA
    Copyright © 2009 Lotus Engineering and PARC

    http://www.ecolo.org/documents…..tus_09.pdf

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  30. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    In the real world, though, where Fiberight will come in conservatively at $2.50, I can come in at $1.50.
    RR


     

    Robert, is this calculation correct in converting biomass to biogas?

    ($50/ton x 1 ton/1000 kg x 1000 kg x 16 kg/kmol x 1 kmol/22.4 m3 x 1
    m3/35 ft3 x 1000 ft3/mcf) / 50% efficiency = $2/mcf

    If this is the raw material cost of the biomass, it is very expensive.  Natural gas is being produced at about $4/mcf and that includes feedstock ready to be processed.  If we had to convert the biomass into biomethane we can assume another $3/mcf.

    If you paid $50/ton for the biomass, and then converted it to biomethane, we would have a feedstock price of $5/mcf (subject to change).

    This might be why the biomethane digester companies stopped selling to the pipelines their gas, and converted it to electricity.

    [link]      
  31. By Kit P on May 22, 2010 at 8:46 am

    “This might be why the biomethane
    digester companies stopped selling to the pipelines their gas, and
    converted it to electricity.”

     

    Which companies are those Walt?

     

    Anaerobic digestion produces biogas
    which is a mixture of primarily CH4, CO2, & H2S. Biogas is
    basically a waste product of natural decay and a poor fuel. It is
    often located places that do not have pipelines.

     

    Many politicians have compulsive waste
    disorder, or CWD when it comes to energy but not the wise use of tax
    dollars. The point I am making is not get confused between good
    engineering and ideas that are predicated on bad engineering but
    dictated be politicians.

     

    If you have a large landfill, a WWTP,
    or CAFO within a couple miles of a boiler using propane of fuel oil;
    then the economics supports a pipeline to use the biogas because the
    biogas not need to be cleaned. Biogas would be a good fuel for a
    boiler at an ethanol plant.

     

    If there is enough biogas to supply a 1
    MWe ICE (designed to run on biogas) driven generator, then
    electricity can be produced at a lower cost that the national
    average. I can cite thousands of examples of this use of biogas.

     

    The next step is to produce higher
    value transportation fuel with biogas. I do not know any company
    that has done this on any large scale. One the problems when going
    from the pilot project to commercial is meeting safety and
    environmental regulations. There are lots of things that can be done
    in third world countries. However, to disregard the safety of
    workers is unethical any place.

     

    I suspect that ‘Political Favoritism’
    has nothing to do with why is not getting any DOE funding.

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  32. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Kit P said:

    “This might be why the biomethane

    digester companies stopped selling to the pipelines their gas, and

    converted it to electricity.”

     

    Which companies are those Walt?

     


     

    Kit,

    This is one of the companies I know personally.  I know Norma and she is one of the brightest technical experts in the industry.  Not only is she bright, but she has never made any wild accusations like what I have seen above regarding methanol.  She is pure professional, and operates her business on the numbers and what is best for her clients.  She is a leader in this sector for sure.

    http://www.epa.gov/agstar//pdf…..donald.pdf

    I know they have stopped selling to the pipeline, and moved everything to electricity now due to the margins alone.

    [link]      
  33. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Kit P said:

    I suspect that ‘Political Favoritism’

    has nothing to do with why is not getting any DOE funding.


     

    I would agree that it would be absolutely illegal if pure politics “political favoritism” had anything to do with who gets funding and who does not…since I’ve worked in almost 40 countries in the past 20 years…I could never imagine that this principle of corruption (my opinion) exists in America.  When I fill out the grant applications, I always wondered why the form was required for lobbyist to be appointed for the grant if they were used.

    I’m not really sure what a lobbyiest could do that would impact the merits of the technology to the grant reviewers, but since Washington is the bashton of global integrity, honesty and technical superiority…it is best just to keep my mouth shut.  I know from working around the world in lots of energy sectors that politics does not effect who gets money and who does not to the average American (read Kit P), but when I speak about it with foreigners who lobby America they think I live on another planet for being so nieve.  I guess this is why Americans watch so much TV day after day…but this topic deserves another blog somewhere else.

    Kit P…I think you are mistaken that the Lobby forms that are required to be filled out with DOE or other grant applications are not there for a reason.  You can call it political favoritism or corruption (outside America), but I recognize sometimes it does not support the science or merits.

    [link]      
  34. By Kit P on May 22, 2010 at 9:38 am

    “This is one of the companies I know
    personally.”

     

    No Walt, it is not a company that
    produces biogas.

     

    “British Columbia, Canada-based
    QuestAir Technologies Inc., a developer and supplier of gas
    purification systems,”

     

    “The company specializes in a modular
    pressure swing adsorption technology,”

     

    I can take biogas and make electricity
    to support the local grid in farming communities increasing the
    reliability of local grid and providing voltage regulation.

     

    Or I can spend lots of money to clean
    the biogas and put it in the pipeline. Then we can make electricity
    with pipeline gas someplace else. The only benefit is to those
    selling equipment to those who do not need it.

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  35. By Jerry Unruh on May 22, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I think Robert is quite right here. In a head-to-head competition without subsidies, methanol will win every time. I take at face value that it can be made from biomass more cheaply than can ethanol. It can also be made from stranded natural gas and more easily shipped than LNG.

    I’m not sure I understand the “eats through metal” statement. The California Energy Commission ran a substantial number of vehicles on methanol for years. I’m not sure what the materials of construction were for the tanks and fuel lines, but it couldn’t add much if anything to the cost of a car. As I recall, the major problems were with gaskets, but that too was easy to fix. My company did extensive studies on methanol as a fuel in the ’80s. It didn’t compete then because the rack price of gasoline at the time was about $0.50/gallon.

    However, there are some issues with methanol that aren’t “show stoppers” but need to be considered. 1) Methanol flames are hard to see, but adding some gasoline (M85) takes care of that. However, methanol/gasoline blends are non-ideal so the fuel becomes more volatile. That is much less of an issue now that most vehicles are fuel injected (not the case in the “80s). 2) There is considerably more formaldehyde in the exhaust, so that would probably have to be handled by catalytic converters. 3) Methanol probably cannot be transported by pipeline with other hydrocarbons. Only small amounts of water causes it to phase and this makes a huge mess because hydrocarbons overrun it and methanol/water is a great solvent for all the junk on the pipeline walls. My old company tried this in a pipeline over the Canadian Rockies and was stuck with quite a large clean up bill.

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  36. By Kit P on May 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Walt I was not talking about general
    politics of the US but the specif merits of your technology.

     

    There are lots of great ideas out their
    and not all of them will get funded. I have written a few grant
    application and helped with others. It is certainly not corruption
    when you lose out to a more ‘politically correct’ project.

     

    A while back I got a call that one of
    my dairy farms projects finally got an AD with the help of a grant.
    Many, many fuel cell projects got money to test biogas at ten times
    the cost. That is the way it goes sometimes.

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  37. By Kit P on May 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

     

    “it can also be made from stranded
    natural gas”

     

    Jerry, do they have any stranded
    natural gas in Iowa?

     

    There was a time that North America had
    cheap natural gas to burn. And we did. The share of NG to produce
    electricity increased by 10% The cheap stranded natural NG is gone
    because we have made a use of it.

     

    While I am an advocate of biofuels in
    general and corn ethanol in particular I do not have a problem with
    methanol.

     

    So what is the root cause of the
    failure of methanol to gain market share?

     

    Anti-ethanol Reason #7 “Political
    Favoritism” does not cut it with me. If the powerful NG lobby is
    blaming ‘big’ corn; then methanol has a problem. Root blame is a
    sure way to fail.

     

    The reason I am buying E10 is because I
    can. My 20 yo POS POV PU runs just fine on it. This same POV bought
    gas a station that had M85 for the government cars. M85 has been out
    there and ignored.

     

    I am in Camp Pragmatist with Rufus. I
    happen to be for all solutions that can be shown to be better than
    how we are currently doing thing.

     

    Bashing what works without explaining
    why methanol does not work is not very logical.

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  38. By Jo Dean on May 22, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Oh wow, that actually makes very good sense dude.

    Lou

    [link]      
  39. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Jerry, do they have any stranded

    natural gas in Iowa?

     

    What does stranded gas in Iowa have to do with anything? There is plenty of stranded gas in other places. 

     

    Of course they do have plenty of natural gas coming into Iowa. Otherwise, I doubt the ethanol industry would be viable. They also have a lot of taxpayer dollars from the rest of the country – the other thing that makes the industry “practical and viable.” Say, did I mention that you can buy unsubsidized methanol today for $1/gal? If we subsidized it as heavily as we have ethanol, it would probably be free.

     

    RR

    [link]      
  40. By Zachariah Granville on May 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Let the free market decide!

    [link]      
  41. By DM on May 22, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Good post Robert, but I think you should also have mentioned that in addition to DME methanol can be used to make synthetic gasoline via the Mobil process, which allows it to be used in the existing transportation infrastructure.

    I also think that the best thing that can be said about ethanol is that it is a mediocre substitute for MTBE as an oxygenate and octane booster. ;-)

    [link]      
  42. By jcsr on May 22, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Toyota has just invested fifty million $ in Tesla motors. They will share technologies and start producing electric cars by 2012.
    When Congress talks people sometimes listen. When Toyota talks (makes) people buy. The country can run our heavy transport equipment for years on oil from whatever source. Once we get our commuters into electric cars we got it made.

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  43. By russ-finley on May 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

    You left out the safety issue. It is only a matter of time before somebody is badly burned by the ethanol being used in Indy 500 purely to promote a product.

     

     

    [link]      
  44. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I guess my question got overlooked.

    Walt, do you buy in to Robert’s $1.50/gal price for “Biomass-derived” Methanol in Tunica, Ms?

    And, about that plant: How much would it cost to build a 10 Million gallon/yr “biomass to methanol” plant?

    That’s an important question because if you’re paying $0.50/gal for feedstock costs you’re going to have to get those “Capital Costs” down to around $0.50/gal in order to turn a profit at $1.50/gal.

    [link]      
  45. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Let me catch up on a few replies now:

    If we had to convert the biomass into biomethane we can assume another $3/mcf.

    If you converted biomass, you wouldn’t convert to natural gas first. It is pretty easy to gasify biomass and the efficiency would be far greater than converting to methane and then methanol.

    RR

    [link]      
  46. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    And, about that plant: How much would it cost to build a 10 Million gallon/yr “biomass to methanol” plant?

     

    It is going to be cheaper than your 10 million gal/year biomass to ethanol plant. If you look at the flowsheets of the respective processes, that is crystal clear.

     

    You are hung up on gasification being expensive, but it isn’t the gasification section that is so expensive in a GTL plant. When you are taking biomass, coal, or natural gas to diesel, you essentially have to have a refinery on the back end to crack and reform the product. Not so when the product is methanol.

     

    As noted, Methanex is making money selling unsubsidized methanol for $1/gal. They are using natural gas gasifiers. The only difference in moving to biomass is going to be some biomass logistics (which the cellulosic ethanol processes must have), a biomass instead of a natural gas gasifier (and simple version of those exist in abundance), and then possibly some gas cleanup depending on the type of biomass and gasifier. So the fear-mongering about capital costs is misplaced; it is based on the high-capital cost problems of a biomass to diesel plant. Tell us how much your cellulusic ethanol plant costs, and I can promise you that a biomass to methanol plant is going to come in lower than that because the process is simpler.

     

    RR

    [link]      
  47. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    A question about methanol: how does it handle water, and does it cause corrosion problems in ferrous metals?

     

    Sorry, GE, I meant to come back to this yesterday.

     

    The corrosion issues are going to be very similar to those with ethanol. The difference in methanol and ethanol is far less than the difference in gasoline and ethanol, and we all remember the many defenses Rufus and his ethanol cohorts provided when the discussion was ethanol/gasoline. So it is once again interesting to see Rufus throwing out corrosion as an issue. In fact, as Jerry Unruh pointed out, the issue is not so much with the metal but with the gaskets in a car, and those are easy to fix.

     

    The pipeline issues are going to be the same as with ethanol. Methanol will pick up water just like ethanol, so shipping it in a pipeline – unless it is dedicated and built specifically for that service (right, ethanol fans?) – would be problematic.

     

    RR

    [link]      
  48. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Poet, Chancellors

    http://www.pipestonestar.com/S…..?SID=26559

    where they’ve replaced 60% of their nat gas with wood waste, and landfill gas.

     

    That wasn’t the question I asked you Rufus. I asked for statistics on the numbers regarding biomass replacement of natural gas. You provided an anecdote. Unless you have actual industry statistics, you don’t know that others haven’t experimented with biomass and gone back to natural gas. So please cease your “ethanol companies are increasingly using biomass to fuel their process” unless you can provide actual industry statistics.

     

    RR

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  49. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    An even bigger drawback is its corrosive nature. It eats through metal.
    If we switched to M10 today,our transportation fleet would be in
    scrapyards by the end of summer.

     

    That just isn’t true, Perry. We have methanol in gasoline additives today. Only at high concentration is it an issue, and that is with gaskets and seals, not the metal. As I pointed out above, the actual corrosion severity goes ethanol is much more corrosive than gasoline, and methanol is slightly more corrosive than ethanol.

     

    RR

    [link]      
  50. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Anti-ethanol Reason #7 “Political

    Favoritism” does not cut it with me. If the powerful NG lobby is

    blaming ‘big’ corn; then methanol has a problem. Root blame is a

    sure way to fail.

     

    And one thing homers do is spin simplistic homilies. Kit, if you think the methanol lobby has remotely as much political power as the ethanol lobby, you are more naive than I could have imagined. But I am starting to think we are dealing with something a little beyond naivety here.

     

    The reason I am buying E10 is because I

    can. 

    The reason you can is that it was supported for years by billions of dollars in subsidies – which proponents continue to insist are still required to keep the industry afloat – it is mandated, and it is tariff-protected. If you think that has nothing to do with why we went with ethanol over methanol, then you are wearing quite the pair of ethanol-colored glasses. You could buy methanol today for much cheaper than you could buy ethanol, but methanol isn’t mandated to be in our gasoline as ethanol is. Right, I am sure the mandate has zero to do with why you can buy ethanol instead of methanol.

    I am in Camp Pragmatist with Rufus. I

    happen to be for all solutions that can be shown to be better than

    how we are currently doing thing.

    Well, I think it has been amply demonstrated here that methanol is the better technical solution. Your simplistic homilies aside, you haven’t provided one word of technical defense of ethanol over methanol. You have confused political issues (I can buy it, therefore it is practical) with technical issues. You can buy it because of the politics. The fact that the ethanol lobbies (funny that they need 3, eh?) continue to insist that they need all of these political favors tells a lot about just how practical it is.

    Bashing what works without explaining

    why methanol does not work is not very logical.

     

    Right. You have not explained why methanol does not work. We have explained why it does. You only suggest ethanol is practical because the politics have long favored it. Thus, your posts to this point have not been very logical.

     

    Of course as you indicated earlier, you didn’t feel like the OP was worth reading, so one wonders why on earth you have bothered to comment when you are clearly ignorant about what we are discussing. Perhaps if you don’t intend to take time to understand what the conversation is about, you should just shut up and try to learn something instead of opening up and showing everyone how little you know.

     

    RR

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  51. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Good post Robert, but I think you should also have mentioned that in
    addition to DME methanol can be used to make synthetic gasoline via the
    Mobil process, which allows it to be used in the existing
    transportation infrastructure.

     

    That is true. There was a plant in New Zealand that ran for a number of years on this process. One of the reasons cited for closing the plant is that they couldn’t compete with oil in the $20 to $30 per barrel range.

     

    Without a doubt, had methanol enjoyed the same kind of political support that ethanol has had, we could be talking about a more realistic long-term petroleum mitigation option.

     

    RR

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  52. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I’m not against methanol. I’m in the whatever works camp. When did methanol lose the Federal Tax Credit? At one time,methanol received a 60 cent credit,compared to 54 cents for ethanol. The IRS still refers to an alcohol tax credit which includes both ethanol and methanol. Vehicles that can safely run on m85 receive a tax credit. Are you sure methanol isn’t subsidized just as favorably as ethanol Robert?

    As for cost, a gallon of m85 sells for slightly less than a gallon of e85,but it only goes about 75% as far. Still, I’d like to see both available to the public.

    [link]      
  53. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Let me catch up on a few replies now:

    If we had to convert the biomass into biomethane we can assume another $3/mcf.

    If you converted biomass, you wouldn’t convert to natural gas first. It is pretty easy to gasify biomass and the efficiency would be far greater than converting to methane and then methanol.

    RR


     

    Robert,

    I know it is a struggle to see the value in biomass to biogas to methanol.  You are probably 100% correct that gasification to syngas to methanol is the best solution, but I’m not yet able to convince myself.

    Someone who I highly respect in the biogas movement just wrote me to say, “the amount of biogas per ton
    of biomass varies dramatically depending on the type of biomass used,
    anywhere from 2000 scf biogas to 15,000 scf biogas per ton.”

    [link]      
  54. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I support ethanol because I am SURE that it can be made for a reasonable cost in, virtually, every county in the United States.

    As I’ve tried to get across, I DON’T know much about making methanol from biomass. So, I ask a simple question, “What Does it Cost?”

    You would think I “shot the chemist.” Finally, RR answers my question; it can be produced for $1.50/gal. I said, “Great.” That’s a Good Price.

    I was a bit surprised, though, so I asked, “what does a plant like that cost?” One reason I asked was that I’d always heard pretty large numbers associated with gasification-type processes. I can, however, accept that biomass would be cheaper than, say, coal, or peat, or whatever. I can, also, see an advantage to using a more dense feedstock, such as trees, as opposed to a less-dense switchgrass. I can see some potential for blending ethanol, and methanol in certain locales, ie those with a lot of forest.

    Walt, Do you Agree with RR’s $1.50/gallon?

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  55. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Okay,I found a table with all the various biofuel tax credits. As I suspected,methanol receives a larger subsidy than ethanol. 190 proof ethanol gets a 45 cent credit. 190 proof methanol receives a 60 cent credit. 150 proof is 33 and 45 cents per gallon respectively.

    http://www.jonathanbwilson.com/id83.html

    [link]      
  56. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Okay,I found a table with all the various biofuel tax credits. As I

    suspected,methanol receives a larger subsidy than ethanol. 190 proof

    ethanol gets a 45 cent credit. 190 proof methanol receives a 60 cent

    credit. 150 proof is 33 and 45 cents per gallon respectively.

     

    Perry, you miss the biggest point. Ethanol is mandated via the RFS. Methanol is not. That is what has driven adoption of ethanol. If producers could buy methanol at a net cost of $0.50 per gallon and $1.50 for ethanol, guess which one they are going to use? Ethanol, which is what they are legally obligated to use.

     

    You will also notice that there all kinds of small producer incentives and loan guarantees that are specific to ethanol.

     

    This is what is driving Range Fuels’ decision to put their methanol into the biodiesel market. Technically, that makes very little sense, but that’s their only realistic outlet. And they are looking at a $1/gal subsidy.

     

    RR

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  57. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I know it is a struggle to see the value in biomass to biogas to
    methanol.  You are probably 100% correct that gasification to syngas to
    methanol is the best solution, but I’m not yet able to convince myself.

     

    There are two things here. If I am starting with natural gas, then gasification and conversion to methanol makes the most economic sense. More than conversion of biomass. But if I am starting with biomass, I want to go directly to gasification and then to methanol. That makes more sense that going first to biogas, but is less attractive than if you are starting with natural gas.

     

    RR

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  58. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Here’s what you had to say in the essay Robert.

    Ethanol’s “pragmatism” is far more due to the fact that it has lobbying organizations like Growth Energy, The American Coalition for Ethanol, and the Renewable Fuels Association spending millions of dollars per year to constantly tell the public and the politicians how pragmatic ethanol is – which by the way we need to keep subsidizing and protecting with tariffs. Methanol doesn’t have that advantage, thus it is “impractical.”

     

    While methanol might not have the lobbying advantage, it does have a larger subsidy. A vehicle that can run on m85 receives a tax credit. The same credit that puts $4000 in the pockets of Honda GX purchasers. The only real advantage ethanol has is the RFS mandate. Problem is,Congress CAN’T mandate methanol use at this point. Our vehicles would be trashed. Methanol is corrosive to more than gaskets. It eats through just about everything but stainless steel. M85 would go through aluminum like a termite goes through wood.

    [link]      
  59. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    As I’ve tried to get across, I DON’T know much about making methanol

    from biomass. So, I ask a simple question, “What Does it Cost?”

     

    Rufus, you don’t do justice to yourself here. I can summarize your shtick, which has gone on for many years, under many aliases, on many websites. It goes like this: When comparing gasoline to ethanol, throw as much mud as possible at gasoline while singing ethanol’s virtues. The support for ethanol can be as simple as a press clipping or something a farmer in North Dakota claimed, but if it is pro-ethanol or anti-gasoline, spread that news as far and as quickly as you can. If, however, the news is anti-ethanol, cast doubt on the study, hand-wave it away, cast aspersions at the authors – but never, ever acknowledge that there might be some merit. This has been your behavior even if the source of the pro-ethanol news was completely anecdotal and the source of the anti-ethanol news was peer-reviewed.

     

    When the nature of your bias is pointed out, claim that you are just a retired insurance salesman who loves his country. Play up the the virtues of homegrown fuel and not having to send our troops overseas. Tell us it is all about patriotism. But your bias was also so comically one-sided, that it was pretty easy to see right through it. I think if others knew just how prolific you are at spreading the ethanol good news, then the retired insurance salesman story would fall apart. Maybe you are a retired insurance salesman. But that’s not all you are.

     

    Of course nothing points this out as clearly as when the conversation turns to another potentially renewable fuel like methanol. In this case, you started to throw mud at methanol: It is corrosive, toxic, has less energy content, blah, blah, blah. Even as you acknowledge that it might not be a bad solution, you still throw in your digs (yeah, I guess it is OK even though it is so corrosive). LOL. If we were talking about ethanol, you would be telling us how for $50 the car could be made completely compatible with ethanol’s corrosive nature. For methanol, “it sure is corrosive.” You play up the cost of ethanol relative to gasoline when it is in your favor, but you don’t address the fact that unsubsidized methanol is even cheaper than subsidized ethanol (other than to say, “but it is made from natural gas” – like ethanol isn’t). The fact is that you are asking critical questions about methanol – which is fine. You should be. The problem is that you are operating under a completely different standard that if we were talking about ethanol. No critical questions there, just mother and apple pie. In fact, you do just the opposite. You don’t ask critical questions about ethanol, you attempt to derail them.

     

    I don’t know if you fool anyone else, but you have never fooled me. You can claim all day not to be associated with the ethanol industry, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it ain’t a swan.

     

    RR

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  60. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Perry said:

    Okay,I found a table with all the various biofuel tax credits. As I suspected,methanol receives a larger subsidy than ethanol. 190 proof ethanol gets a 45 cent credit. 190 proof methanol receives a 60 cent credit. 150 proof is 33 and 45 cents per gallon respectively.

    http://www.jonathanbwilson.com/id83.html


     

    Very interesting.  I have not studied this, but I just forwarded it to one of our engineers and asked him to include it in our model.  The biomass feedstock is something we will look into more deeply …. even though using natural gas that is stranded or flared is much easier…since it is mostly methane allowing us to make methanol.  Again we are not gasification/syngas guys…although we get our fair share of gasification companies who call us asking if they can use our reactor system to make methanol, and we say, “Sorry guys, we need methane, and cannot use syngas”.

    [link]      
  61. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Did I read where the M85 FFVs had to have stainless steel gas tanks, fuel lines, etc?

    [link]      
  62. By Benny BND Cole on May 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    RR has written many, many great blogs over the years, and this is another one. 

    It is remarkable and lugubrious that our energy policy is held hostage by Senators from 21 farm states.  My guess is that the population of those states is perhaps 10 percent of the nation–but they have 42 votes in the Senate.  So much for free enterprise–bring in socialism for rural industries. 

    I am also surprised at the flatfootedness of the methanol industry.  Ethanol has powerful lobbyists, terrific (if misleading) websites and a well-greased politico-PR machine.  It is patriotic to buy ethanol.  Methanol has none of that.

    It may be that, before shale gas, methanol was a dubious choice to help build USA energy independence.  But with epic supplies of natural gas in North America, and with reserves likely to balloon in years ahead (reserves typically grow when you discover and start exploiting something new) methanol becomes a wonderful option, especially in combination with PHEVs. 

    My own favorite is a pure methanol-PHEV car, using a high compression motor.  Such a car would offer unlimited range, burn little fossil fuels in daily use, and use no crude oil.  Zero.  A death ray for OPEC.  Each such car would contribute more to our true national security than any F-22 fighter jet.  

    On methanol burning clearly: Oddly enough, that is why methanol was used in the Indy 500 for so many years.  The feeling was that gasoline fires produced flames and smoke that drivers and  rescuers could not see through–increasing the danger.  Methanol is considered less flammable and somewhat safer than gasoline in many applications.  

    Congrats again to RR on such a perceptive blog, truly a ray of light in a dim and confused world of energy and oil blogs.  I sense that ideas hammered out in RR’s blog do filter into the broader populace and blog-world. 

     

     

     

     

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  63. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Ethanol’s “pragmatism” is far more due to the fact that it has lobbying organizations like Growth Energy, The American Coalition for Ethanol, and the Renewable Fuels Association spending millions of dollars per year
    to constantly tell the public and the politicians how pragmatic ethanol
    is – which by the way we need to keep subsidizing and protecting with
    tariffs. Methanol doesn’t have that advantage, thus it is “impractical.”

     

    I also mentioned the mandate on multiple occasions. This mandate was facilitated by those lobbying organizations.

     

    While methanol might not have the lobbying advantage, it does have a
    larger subsidy. A vehicle that can run on m85 receives a tax credit.
    The same credit that puts $4000 in the pockets of Honda GX purchasers.
    The only real advantage ethanol has is the RFS mandate.

     

    Well that’s quite an enormous one. Ethanol got very little traction right up until the point that it was mandated. Then ethanol growth exploded. So this “only real advantage” is the single biggest factor in play. There is no realistic route to a methanol industry, because it is effectively blocked by ethanol’s mandate. The producer could use methanol as an additive, but he must use ethanol. There is no infrastructure for methanol as fuel, but ethanol’s infractructure was facilitated by the lobbies and taxpayer funding.

     

    At the end of the day, my position is simple. When we no longer have cheap fossil fuels, I don’t believe ethanol will be competitive. We do know that ethanol is heavily reliant today on cheap fossil fuels. Methanol, on the other hand, can be made from many more sources and much more efficiently than ethanol can. So as a technical solution to the nation’s energy problem, methanol is better but lacks the political might. Further, it is indisputably cheaper even without the subsidies that ethanol gets.

     

    Problem is, Congress CAN’T mandate methanol use at this point. Our
    vehicles would be trashed. Methanol is corrosive to more than gaskets.

     

    Methanol’s corrosion mechanism is the same as ethanol’s. The corrosion mechanism is based on the fact that both are weak acids, and both pick up water. There is literature on the reaction of ethanol to aluminum – which is addressed by E85 vehicles. So if methanol will trash our vehicles, so will ethanol. It might just take a bit longer. Of course we do have lots of methanol fuel additives, so I think your are grossly overplaying this corrosion issue. Either ethanol and methanol will both destroy your car, or neither will.

     

    RR

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  64. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    So, Robert, that was quite a little spiel. How much did you say that plant costs?

    And, Walt, do you agree with Robert as to the $1.50 gallon?

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  65. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    I know it is a struggle to see the value in biomass to biogas to

    methanol.  You are probably 100% correct that gasification to syngas to

    methanol is the best solution, but I’m not yet able to convince myself.

     There are two things here. If I am starting with natural gas, then gasification and conversion to methanol makes the most economic sense. More than conversion of biomass. But if I am starting with biomass, I want to go directly to gasification and then to methanol. That makes more sense that going first to biogas, but is less attractive than if you are starting with natural gas.

     

    RR


     

    Robert, here is where I would like to add some of my thoughts, and where I can be most helpful to the discussion.  I agree there is two issues here and one is using natural gas as a feedstock, and the second is using biomass as a feedstock.

    One thing I know for sure…absolutely, and might consider myself as a self appointed expert (please don’t laugh) on the topic of natural gas conversion.  One thing that we know backwards and forwards is the direct conversion of methane to liquids.  The direct conversion of methane is different than the indirect (via syngas/gasification) conversion of methane.  Both are two different sets of chemistry and kinetics.

    You said, “If I am starting with natural gas, then gasification and conversion to
    methanol makes the most economic sense.”  I would like to respectfully disagree with this point.  I think the direct conversion of natural gas is far superior to the indirect conversion of natural gas using gasifcation via syngas.  We have a third-party study by a leading chemical engineering consultantcy which shows we are 50-70% cheaper in CAPEX than traditional methanol technologies using the leader ICI.  Here is one of the leading implementers of ICI technology:

    http://www.linde-process-engin…..thesis.php

    They cannot compete with us, and I have numbers upside down, all around facts.  I know this business to be confident in saying this; but we are at a pilot/demo scale, and certainly do not have $100-300 million to prove it like our competitors being funded by DOE.  We have no subsidies.

    The conversion of biomass to biogas to methanol via our process…I am not able to answer yet.  I’m still researching the question, although we have done work on this in two DOE grants (which I thought were highly competitive at the time), perhaps I’m wrong.  If gasification of biomass to syngas to methanol is the best route, I would not be surprised…but I cannot make that call as I am not a gasification technology.  I understand who owns the leading gasification technologies…like GE and others to long for me to type here…but I need more time to be certain.

    Please don’t take offense to my comments as I’m still buried in the books and reaching out to experts I know to give me the skinny.

     

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  66. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Rufus said:

    So, Robert, that was quite a little spiel. How much did you say that plant costs?

    And, Walt, do you agree with Robert as to the $1.50 gallon?


     

    I know. What else can you really say? I spoke the truth. Walt probably can’t comment on my number, as his process isn’t via a biomass/syngas route. He will have to give you the numbers for his process. But I point out once more that you can go out and pick up methanol for $1 a gallon. No need to even worry about paying $1.50 for a good while.

     

    As I said, the plant will be cheaper than your cellulosic ethanol plant. But you can’t actually tell me how much that costs (since nobody has built one). So if I quote you a realistic number, you are just going to grab some anecdote from what Joe Blow said on his web page and say “See, it is cheaper to build a cellulosic ethanol plant.” But I am curious, can you show me where you were asking critical questions on how much it will cost to build a cellulosic ethanol plant? No, but I can show you where you were taking speculation from people and throwing them out there. Again, different standards from you.

     

    But you have chosen to ignore what I did write. Much of the infrastructure for a biomass to methanol plant is going to be the same as for a natural gas to methanol plant. We know that they are profitably selling methanol from a conventional plant for $1/gal. So are you implying that the biomass version is going to be much more expensive, and if so what is your basis? I have already explained to you why BTL – with “L” being diesel – are expensive plants to build. But those reasons don’t apply if you are making methanol.

     

    RR

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  67. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    You said, “If I am starting with natural gas, then gasification and conversion to

    methanol makes the most economic sense.”  I would like to respectfully

    disagree with this point.  I think the direct conversion of natural gas

    is far superior to the indirect conversion of natural gas using

    gasifcation via syngas.

     

    I know a bit about direct conversion of methane, as I experimented with methane coupling when I was with ConocoPhillips. Methane isn’t very fond of coupling up directly with other molecules. You can build up longer chains, but the thermodynamic barrier is high. (I realize the process is different than what you are proposing, but my point is that methane has been shown to resist coupling). Methane, on the other hand, gasifies nicely. And the proof there is in the pudding: $1/gallon methanol via this process, and they are making a profit. So the true cost of production is under $1/gallon – demonstrated on a large scale.

     

    RR

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  68. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I’m not “Implying” anything, Robert. I don’t know enough about the process to “imply” anything. All I know is, every time I’ve seen “Heat” in a process the product gets expensive. But, evidently, this process has never been done at a price that anyone wants to brag about.

    I feel like I have “some” idea of the cost involved in what Poet/Genera are wanting to do, and Genera is doing, because all I see (from an untrained eye, admittedly, is an extra “pre-treatment” process that uses hot water, but, NOT, extreme Heat.

    I, also, have Poet, Novozymes, Dupont-Danisco, et al “On Record” at about $2.00/gal. I don’t have anyone “on record” for biomass to methanol at Any price.

    [link]      
  69. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    What are the Co-Products, and what are they used for?

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  70. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I’m not “Implying” anything, Robert. I don’t know enough about the process to “imply” anything.

     

    Yet you have implied an awful lot about something you profess not to know much about.

     

    All I know is, every time I’ve seen “Heat” in a process the product gets expensive.

     

    How do you think corn is ultimately turned into ethanol? Or cellulose? Do you think there isn’t a lot of heat involved? The processes all require loads of steam to purify the ethanol. That’s the problem when your product is saturated with water. But what is the heat you see in the gasification process? Gasifiers PRODUCE heat, and lots of it. They produce steam.

     

    What are the Co-Products, and what are they used for?

     

    Remember, this is gasification. You don’t have a bunch of byproducts like sopping wet lignin to deal with. Of course steam is a byproduct. As can be electricity. But the biomass all gets converted to syngas. The methanol conversion process is highly efficient, so again, not much to deal with in the way of by-products.

     

    RR

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  71. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Okay, let’s stipulate that Methanol from Biomass can be 25% cheaper to make than cellulosic ethanol. That puts it, more or less, even after accounting for less BTUs. Now what?

    [link]      
  72. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Rufus said:

    Okay, let’s stipulate that Methanol from Biomass can be 25% cheaper to make than cellulosic ethanol. That puts it, more or less, even after accounting for less BTUs. Now what?


     

    Now we just need a mandate that 5% of the gasoline supply must come from methanol, and we are off to the races. The ethanol guys will probably get behind that, don’t you think? I read all the time how concerned they are about getting us off of foreign oil.

    But this isn’t for me about how much these cost today (even though – which I might have mentioned – unsubsidized methanol is cheaper than subsidized ethanol). What is important is the longer-term prospects. If you convert biomass to methanol, you are going to end up with far more of the starting BTUs in the liquid fuel. That – in an energy constrained world – will define what is ultimately sustainable and what is sustained only through perpetual government support.

     

    RR

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  73. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    5% Methanol? If it can be made for 75% the cost of Ethanol?

    Hmm,

    Why Not? I could get behind that.

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  74. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    I know a bit about direct conversion of methane, as I experimented with methane coupling when I was with ConocoPhillips. Methane isn’t very fond of coupling up directly with other molecules. You can build up longer chains, but the thermodynamic barrier is high. (I realize the process is different than what you are proposing, but my point is that methane has been shown to resist coupling). Methane, on the other hand, gasifies nicely. And the proof there is in the pudding: $1/gallon methanol via this process, and they are making a profit. So the true cost of production is under $1/gallon – demonstrated on a large scale.

     

    RR


     

    Robert, the process kinetics is not really a good discuss here…but I understand what you are saying.

    I did not know you were with ConocoPhillips.

    I spoke with one of their engineers last year who studied our patents, and was fairly impressed with the process and the reactor, but not interested in methanol.  He was frank in that methanol would need to involve their ConocoChevron partnership at the end of the day:
     

    >I’ve reviewed your proposal and process for the production of methanol
    > from methane. The production of methanol from natural gas currently
    > does not fit within ConocoPhillips’ business plan.
    >
    > Thank you for your interest.

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  75. By Kit P on May 22, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    “you haven’t provided one word of
    technical defense of ethanol over methanol.”

     

    Of course not. The market for
    transportation fuel is huge. I think it is great that corn ethanol
    is providing such a significant amount of fuel. I think it would be
    great if methanol did the same if the source is domestic.

     

    Since I am in the electricity
    generating industry, I think it would be great if 10% of the energy
    for POVa came from electricity although I am skeptical that I will
    live long enough to see it.

     

    It is good to have choices.

     

    “Ethanol is mandated via the RFS.”

     

    Actually, biofuels are mandated. It is
    just that the corn ethanol industry was faster to capture the market.

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  76. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Methane, on the other hand, gasifies nicely. And the proof there is in the pudding: $1/gallon methanol via this process, and they are making a profit. So the true cost of production is under $1/gallon – demonstrated on a large scale.
     

    RR


     

    Robert, I agree that if something is not broke don’t fix it…but I also am a big believer in innovation and new technologies.  Thus, Methanex offers their methanol at $1.00/gallon delivered Houston.  America imports about 90% of its methanol from overseas.  I can change that fast.

    We can produce methanol, domestically and in competition to Methanex (unless they buy the technology and ship it to China), for $0.23 per gallon at about one-half the scale/size (30 mmscfd) of the traditional methanol plant.  That is a cost of production…not including profit…but if Methanex is selling at $330/ton ($1.00/gal) and raised their prices to $800+/ton in 2007…don’t be surprised if the chemical industry is brought to their knees again.  Put all the power in the hands on one or two companies…controlling our imports…and it is good for the ethanol industry, but not so good for the chemicals industry or the biofuels (biodiesel) industry.

    Your article certainly helps my position…as I can count the support on one hand in the USA…but I’m confident we have a place at the table in time.

     

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  77. By russ-finley on May 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Real interesting thread, RR. But I may have spotted a fly in the ointment. I was looking at the EPA RFS data to confirm my suspicion that ethanol is not mandated. From here:

    “Renewable Fuel” is defined as fuel produced from renewable biomass…

    Admittedly, calling a fuel (corn ethanol) that gets most of its energy from non-renewable fuels “renewable” is stretching the definition. In theory, the renewable aspects are captured somewhat in the standards for GHG emission reductions.

    But the mandate appears to be for renewable fuels, not ethanol per se.

    If my interpretation is right, and the mandate is for any renewable fuel, the question of why corn ethanol dominates the market should be looked at a little closer.

    By the way, that same legislation caps corn ethanol at 15 billion gallons. Although I have yet to find the reasoning for that cap, I have my suspicions.

    My guess for corn ethanol domination is basically momentum. The corn ethanol ball was rolling to provide an anti-knock alternative and the source of sugar for fermentation could be met by simply expanding corn production.

    In a free market, the first guy out the door grabs the market until a competitor comes along who can make an equivalent for much less. But that takes time. Corn ethanol looks very much like a classic pyramid scheme where the first guys in will run off with a profit, but in the end, somebody is going to get left holding a bag, a smelly, steaming one.

     

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  78. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Kit P said:

    “Ethanol is mandated via the RFS.”

     

    Actually, biofuels are mandated. It is

    just that the corn ethanol industry was faster to capture the market.


     

    For someone who professes to be informed about energy policy, you sure don’t seem to be informed in this area. Have you read the Energy Policy Act of 2005? Read that and tell me that the field wasn’t heavily tilted to ethanol (and effectively mandated via numerous specific tax credits for E85 vehicles, etc.).

     

    RR 

     

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  79. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    Real interesting thread, RR. But I may have spotted a fly in the ointment. I was looking at the EPA RFS data to confirm my suspicion that ethanol is not mandated. From here:

    “Renewable Fuel” is defined as fuel produced from renewable biomass… 


     

    Russ, the definitions have been changed multiple times, but if you look back at the history of the Clean Air Act, then the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the subsequent modification in 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, you will see numerous carve-outs that are ethanol-specific. The small ethanol producer tax credit (small now being 60 million gallons per year!) is ethanol specific. I am also almost positive that the initial RFS was ethanol specific, or at least very narrowly defined such that corn ethanol was really the only possibility for meeting the mandate. I have run into this before, where a seemingly legitimate renewable fuel isn’t subject to the RFS or the mandates. (We do know without a doubt that cheaper, natural-gas derived methanol is excluded).

     

    If you start to dig back, you will see that each version of the energy bill is a modification of the previous energy bill, so you have to work through many before you get to the bottom of everything. In the 2007 act, for instance, the small ethanol producer tax credit was raised from 30 million to 60 million gallons per year. I suspect the average plant is less than 60 million gallons, so this is an ethanol-specific subsidy for which there is no methanol-specific equivalent.

     

    Oh, and there are also numerous state progams which are ethanol specific. So it isn’t remotely like methanol and ethanol are competing on a level playing field.

     

    RR

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  80. By russ-finley on May 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Good points, RR. Clearly the initial intent was to placate the corn lobby. Once corn ethanol had a strangle-hold on the industry it was safe to change the language to something more generic. I’ll wager the law will change again as needed to protect corn ethanol as it starts to lose ground to real competitors.

    Thoughts as to why corn ethanol is limited to 15 billion gallons?

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  81. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Russ Finley said:

    Good points, RR. Clearly the initial intent was to placate the corn lobby. Once corn ethanol had a strangle-hold on the industry it was safe to change the language to something more generic. I’ll wager the law will change again as needed to protect corn ethanol as it starts to lose ground to real competitors.

    Thoughts as to why corn ethanol is limited to 15 billion gallons?


     

    I think the limit was a compromise for people who didn’t want to see this expanded forever and who were worried about the growing size of the subsidies. So they put a limit, which of course you know the corn lobby has been lobbying to increase since almost the beginning. First step is to get the allowable content in gasoline to 15%. Second step is that cellulosic fails to deliver the promised volumes. At that point, the ethanol lobby steps in and says “You know, we can produce 20 billion gallons provided you continue the subsidies, mandates, and tariffs.”

     

    RR

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  82. By Rufus on May 22, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Russ, there was a food-to-fuel brouhaha going on at the time. That’s, probably, the main reason for the limit of 15bgpy for “corn” ethanol. Actually, you can produce more, but the obligated parties aren’t required to “blend” it.

    I imagine the auto companies preferred ethanol over methanol due to methanol being more corrosive. Also, we’ve been distilling corn whiskey for over 200 years in this country. It was familiar technology; and, as Wendell said, all those farm state Senators Did have a say.

    I think the main change will be that the tax credit will go away Dec 31. And, possibly, the import tariff.

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  83. By Brian Hayes on May 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Concern about Food to Fuel arrived much after ethanol incentives were suddenly inserted; closed door gerrymander no doubt, and juiced campaign coffers. Few of us expected pump mandates though none of us were surprised.

    Of course ethanol is cream on milk. Over decades our great geo-crops are important to our nation, a premier asset of America, as should be.Congress not so much.

    Our nation might be operating less than 25% efficient. OK, say 33% or 50%, who knows? That’s the challenge of it. Understanding lifecycle and evaluating honest ROI is our task and we all know a little about how to do that.

    Thanks Robert for framing issues and calculating returns and saying it out loud.

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  84. By russ-finley on May 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    RR said:

    Second step is that cellulosic fails to deliver the promised volumes. At

    that point, the ethanol lobby steps in and says “You know, we can

    produce 20 billion gallons provided you continue the subsidies,

    mandates, and tariffs.”

    Exactly.

    “Oh and we need a pipeline to get this to the coasts so we can export it, uh, to, ah, you know, make us more energy independent. We are too big to fail  now but a pipeline will be icing on the cake, wink, wink.”

     

    Rufus said:

     

     

    Actually, you can produce more, but the obligated parties aren’t required [forced] to “blend” it.

     

    According to the American Coalition for Corn Ethanol:

     

    “…corn-based ethanol (conventional biofuel) is essentially capped at 15 billion gallons.”

     

     

     The law stopped short of making it illegal to exceed 15 billion gallons but that also documents the consensus at the time that corn ethanol was not seen as viable in the long run.

    One can see how this will all play out. Let’s say a fuel made from biomass comes along that is far cheaper to produce but all of the pumps and tanker trucks and flex fuel cars are already designed for ethanol.

    What politician is going to tell the investors in hundreds of corn ethanol refineries to take a hike when that competitor arrives.

    This is why the government should never be allowed to pick winners. They have practically locked us into corn ethanol and any competing fuel will require the destruction of billions of dollars of infrastructure. Dropping the tariff would eventually flood the market with cane ethanol and even though consumers would be better off, politicians no longer fear favoring businesses over consumers.

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  85. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    “Methanol’s corrosion mechanism is the same as ethanol’s. ”

    If that were true,a flexfuel could handle m85 as well as e85. I don’t think that’s the case,since a tax credit provides thousands of dollars to purchasers of vehicles capable of running on m85. The fact that automakers aren’t taking advantage of the credit suggests it’s quite an expensive conversion.

    Before I write my congressman expressing outrage over the lack of a methanol mandate,I’d really like to know whether such a mandate is even feasible,much less practical. $1.00 a gallon is a doable price,since two gallons of methanol has almost as much energy content as a gallon of gasoline. And wholesale gasoline is down around $2 a gallon at present. The problem with that $1.00 figure is that’s for natural gas. Greenie weenies will go ballistic at the suggestion of mandating methanol from natgas,because it would result in net increases of CO2.

    What we need to know is whether woodgas can be produced in the $1.00 range,with or without the 60 cent subsidy. And of course,whether cars on the road can handle any blend of methanol safely. If the answer to both is yes,I’ll gladly get behind a methanol mandate.

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  86. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Perry said:

    What we need to know is whether woodgas can be produced in the $1.00 range,with or without the 60 cent subsidy. And of course,whether cars on the road can handle any blend of methanol safely. If the answer to both is yes,I’ll gladly get behind a methanol mandate.


     

    Perry, we have run extensive financial models on our CAPEX, OPEX and cost of production.  We’ve also worked on evaluating mutliple feedgas specifications from flared gas for the World Bank GGFR (they asked me to speak in Moscow to the Russian Government in October 2007 on flared gas conversion to Methanol…which was productive even today), to landfill gas, biogas, biomethane, coal mine methane, coal bed methane and traditional natural gas (e.g., from sandstone formations).

     

    Obviously the high CO2 biogas and landfill gas is less profitable, but as our video explains we can handle high CO2 in the recycle, as well as high nitrogen.  It effects the economics, but not necessarily the ability to reach out to these types of feedstocks.  There is actually an abundance of stranded natural gas opportunities in USA which would support “small” or “medium” scale projects.  What is small or medium scale?

     

    Small or medium scale projects are easier to license and thus attract less national attention like Jumbo Methanol Plants require to get down to the estimated $120/ton cost of production using natural gas.  These jumbo plants seem to be feasible in China due to their national energy policy, but locating them somewhere in America (a must to be next to a major port facility) might be difficult.  I suspect the ethanol lobby could send mutiple bus loads of protestors to stop such an enormous plant from receiving local/state support.  These plants are nearly 5,000 tons a day and cost a billions of dollars.  Here is a report on the economics:

     

    “In this review, we examine the technology and economics of methanol
    production starting from natural gas as a raw material. Syngas is
    generated from natural gas using the commercially available ICI/Synetix
    process as a front end. Liquid phase methanol technology is then
    utilized to synthesize methanol followed by methanol purification. We
    also present a conceptual design and economic evaluation of a 5000
    metric ton-per-day methanol plant using integrated ICI/Synetix syngas
    generation technology and liquid phase methanol synthesis technology.”

    http://www.sriconsulting.com/P…..RW2009-15/

     

    Our GasTechno demo/commercial scale plant (mini-scale) is designed to be modular and profitable (~$10 million):

    Typical production rates for 1
    mmscfd gas feed is:
    i.    21 tons of methanol per day
    (7,000 gallons)
    ii.    18 tons of formalin per day (4,400
    gallons)
    iii.    1 ton of ethanol per day (334 gallons)

    iv.    42 tons per day of CO2 credits

     

    Our GasTechno commercial plant is designed for 30 mmscfd gas feed (small scale) and is one train (~$100 million):

    Typical production rates for 30 mmscfd gas feed is:
    i.   500 tons of methanol per day (179,000 mtpa)…balance of products to be calculated with gas quality

     

    The biomass/biogs/biomethane calculations are still being worked on, but depend on the biomass feedstock and cost.

     

    By the way, our financials have NO subsidies included in the models, and are profitable without them due technology innovation.

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  87. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    After some digging, I found a reference to a technical article by Ford that says methanol blends up to M5 are safe as long as it contains the necessary co-solvents and additives. If the methanol does not contain the necessary co-solvents & additives, it will damage the vehicle.

    That still begs the question of whether methanol from wood can be made for less than $1.60 a gallon. Then,there’s the added dilemna of displacing a gallon of E10 with M5. Wouldn’t that be somewhat counter-productive?

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  88. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Walt, I just can’t see the ethanol lobby getting worked up about methanol’s prospects. They really have very different uses at this point. My dream car would be able to use any fuel, including methanol, ethanol, propane, natural gas, and electricity, to name a few. And in my little dream world, they would all be available day or night, rain or shine. In reality, ethanol has the advantage because it’s easily blended with gasoline. No co-solvents or additives required. It’s also not as corrosive,so more of it can be used. Until methanol can overcome those liabilities, we can forget about any mandates coming down from above. Just ain’t happenin’.

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  89. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Perry said:

    Then,there’s the added dilemna of displacing a gallon of E10 with M5. Wouldn’t that be somewhat counter-productive?


     

    I don’t understand how this claim is true.  Biodiesel has more than 5% methanol in each gallon.  Where the source article is from Ford?  I found this which does address the issue, but I’m not sure how biodiesel with methanol is different from gasoline with methanol.  The article here says:

     

    “The problems of corrosivity on metal and plastic components of
    conventional vehicles running on methanol and ethanol are solved readily
    by substituting materials, the report notes. Materials substitution and
    development of appropriate engine oils have ameliorated the problem of
    refueling systems. Similarly, the problems of volatility of neat alcohol
    fuels have been solved by the addition of volatile primer in amounts of
    about 15%. Gasoline has been added to create the fuels of M85 (85%
    methanol) and E85 (85% ethanol).

    Flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) technology is cited as being
    highly developed and nearly ready for full-scale marketing. “However, a
    disadvantage of the FFV concept is that the emissions advantages of
    methanol and ethanol are seriously compromised by the addition of even
    15% gasoline. It’s likely that reformulated gasolines will be able to
    achieve the same level of emissions performance as M85 or E85.”
    Moreover, the emissions characteristics of lower alcohol-content
    mixtures (which are likely to be present occasionally in FFV fuel tanks)
    could be worse. Because FFV technology allows fuel metering to be
    precisely controlled for any gasoline-alcohol mixture, engine design is
    limited to characteristics suitable to gasoline. This can sacrifice some
    of the advantages of alcohols. “Thus, properties such as higher octane
    and the lean-burn capability of alcohol fuels cannot be fully exploited
    at this time.””

    http://www.greencar.com/articl…..s-ffvs.php

     

    Are you saying that all vehicals on the road are capable to run on E10 or E85, but the same cars cannot run on M10 or M85?  Do you believe the flex-fuel vehicles can run on both?

    [link]      
  90. By Perry on May 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    “Are you saying that all vehicals on the road are capable to run on E10 or E85, but the same cars cannot run on M10 or M85?  Do you believe the flex-fuel vehicles can run on both?”

     

    All vehicles can run on E10 as far as I know Walt. But,I can’t find where ANY vehicles produced for the mass market are capable of running on M10 or above. The only reference I found to any car being able to handle any methanol blend at all was the article I referred to. Maybe there’s more research out there. i just can’t find it.

     

    http://www.moscowfood.coop/arc…..hanol.html

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  91. By rrapier on May 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    Perry, I have to run out for a couple of hours, but a couple of relevant bits. Wiki has some on this, with references:

    In 1981, Ford delivered 40 dedicated methanol fuel (M100) Escorts to Los Angeles County, but only four refueling stations were installed.[8] The biggest challenge in the development of alcohol vehicle technology was getting all of the fuel system materials compatible with the higher chemical reactivity of the fuel. Methanol was even more of a challenge than ethanol but, fortunately, much of the early experience gained with ethanol vehicle production in Brazil was transferable to methanol. The success of this small experimental fleet of M100s led California to request more of these vehicles, mainly for government fleets. In 1983, Ford built 582 M100 vehicles; 501 went to California, and the remaining to New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom, and Canada.[8]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F…..el_vehicle

    The corrosion mechanism is most certainly the same as ethanol’s. It is just that methanol is more acidic. But ethanol is also acidic, and it picks up water. Those issues are not significant at small blends. In fact, go to the store and you will see that gasoline additives contain methanol. Millions of people already put it in their cars in small quantities.

    Second, M85 is not even something we remotely need to be concerned about right now. Why would an automaker build one when there is no possibility of getting the fuel?

    Finally, isn’t the goal energy security? If we are replacing imported oil with domestic methanol, overall CO2 emissions will in fact be lower whether methanol is made from biomass or not.

    Walt, I just can’t see the ethanol lobby getting worked up about methanol’s prospects.

    Well, they do take every opportunity to denigrate it when the subject comes up. I have seen ethanol proponents do it many times. I was just browsing the Twitters on this and they were doing it.

    RR

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  92. By Walt on May 22, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Perry said:

    The only reference I found to any car being able to handle any methanol blend at all was the article I referred to. Maybe there’s more research out there. i just can’t find it.

     

    http://www.moscowfood.coop/arc…..hanol.html


     

    I’m off for the night…be back on Monday.  Here is an intersting link in 2009, which does not not answer our question, but shows China’s decision:

     

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/green…..oline.html

    [link]      
  93. By Perry on May 23, 2010 at 12:18 am

    “If we are replacing imported oil with domestic methanol, overall CO2 emissions will in fact be lower whether methanol is made from biomass or not.”

     

    Maybe so,but environmentalists will fight anything that “mandates” the use of fossil fuels, whether domestically sourced or not. I’m sure you can see that fight coming from a mile away. Why bother turning the NG to methanol anyway? That just burns up 30% of the btu’s before it ever gets near an engine. Simpler and more energy efficient to use LNG, no?

     

    On the other hand, I like the idea of wood methanol. Seems it would be more efficient than cellulosic ethanol from wood.

    [link]      
  94. By Kit P on May 23, 2010 at 12:36 am

    “Have you read the Energy Policy Act

    of 2005?”

     

    Yes, most of it anyway. Analyzed too

    for potential business opportunities. This was a long time before

    ever reading anything that RR wrote. RR Edit: Gratuitous insult removed; next time it will be the entire post.

    If you would like to go read the section it is,

     

    1501. RENEWABLE CONTENT OF

    GASOLINE.”

     

    Lots of other

    stuff in that energy bill too.

     

    Let me again

    repeat that I am not against incentives. I evaluate them based on

    how effective they are at accomplishing a goal. For example,

    incentives were provided to build 4 nuke reactors and 30+ are in

    various stages of planning. Billions have been invested and the

    government has not has to pay for any of the incentives yet. The

    nuclear industry pays for loan guarantees applications and COL

    applications to be reviewed.

     

    Feel free to

    actually cite the Federal Registrar or the CFR RR.

    [link]      
  95. By Rufus on May 23, 2010 at 12:57 am

    I just realized what Formalin is. What in the world will you do with all that stuff?

    [link]      
  96. By rrapier on May 23, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Rufus said:

    I just realized what Formalin is. What in the world will you do with all that stuff?


     

    I guess I don’t understand the question. Why are you going to have formalin to deal with? Formalin is commercially made from methanol. What exactly is the context of your concern here?

     

    RR

     

    Edit: I just realized you are talking about Walt’s process. I will let him speak to that, but formalin isn’t a major byproduct from methanol production – unless you want to make formalin.

    [link]      
  97. By rrapier on May 23, 2010 at 3:24 am

    Feel free to actually cite the Federal Registrar or the CFR RR.

     

    I had to edit your post above for a gratuitous insult, and I think everyone here is quite tired of it. I am getting lots of complaints (some people can’t understand why I tolerate you), and I have tolerated you far more than I probably should have. If I feel myself needing to edit a lot of your posts, I won’t waste my time and I will just delete them. Sooner or later you will learn.

     

    Now what is it you want me to cite? That ethanol is specifically favored by various carve-outs that methanol isn’t entitled to? I thought you said you read the Energy Policy Act of 2005? If so, then you should know this. If not, then I can cite some for you. Is that your preference?

     

    RR

    [link]      
  98. By Kit P on May 23, 2010 at 8:39 am

    RR edit: You were warned. Entire post deleted, and I am going to delete the next one for good measure. If you can’t follow the rules, then I will delete all your posts.


    Learn the difference between legitimate criticism and a gratuitous insult. Calling a hypocrite a hypocrite is not a gratuitous insult. You seem not to understand some of the subtleties of social interaction. Funny that you are the only one complaining about double standards and such.


    RR

    [link]      
  99. By Kit P on May 23, 2010 at 9:37 am

    RR edit: Post deleted per the warning previously issued and ignored.

    [link]      
  100. By rrapier on May 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    @ Kit P – The progression of posts are all interesting with the
    exception of yours, your attacks on Robert and your attacks on others.
    What in the world is wrong with you? Some are better than others – some
    contain better information than others – OK so what – that is the
    nature of blogs.

     

    I warned him yesterday, and he simply ignored my warning. As a result, he will not be allowed to post anything for the next 24 hours – in any thread. Anything he posts will be deleted. If he can’t learn, then we can block him. If he can learn, he might be capable of contributing something to the conversation.

     

    RR

    [link]      
  101. By russ on May 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    @ Kit P – The progression of posts are all interesting with the exception of yours, your attacks on Robert and your attacks on others. What in the world is wrong with you? Some are better than others – some contain better information than others – OK so what – that is the nature of blogs.

    The blog is Robert and Sam’s – they do the editing and say what is right or wrong by definition. 

    Maybe this the only blog you haven’t been kicked off of?

     

     

    [link]      
  102. By James on May 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    The work that the Ford Motor Company did back in the ’80s helped advance today’s flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). They were able to work out a lot of the issues of materials, corrosivity, and engine controls by working with the methanol cars. These cars had to be tuned to run on a specific fuel mixture and would have to be tweaked if the mixture changed. The experimentation showed that if they moved the sensor to the exhaust instead of the intake, then the car could adjust its parameters for any blend of fuel based on the exhaust gases. This is how a modern FFV works, that is why they can run on any mixture of gasoline and alcohol fuel up to 85% alcohol. It is also interesting to note that under the Ford Motor Company’s definition of an FFV, methanol and methanol blends are also included. Theoretically, if the car can run on blends up to E85, the car can also run on blends up to M85, although GM does not certify their vehicles for this. Probably because they don’t have the data that Ford has showing it to be true.

    I have worked out a business plan that shows methanol production to be cost effective for a variety of feedstock costs, fuel costs, and methanol costs. The plan uses biomass gasification as the source of the methanol. I have not advanced the business plan because it very difficult to advance a $200 million project in the financial environment we are currently in. I wish that I could have received some of the grants that Range Fuels received for their project but the support is simply not there for methanol production as a fuel.

    The Renewable Fuel Standard has made methanol more attractive but it still has a long way to go.

    [link]      
  103. By Wendell Mercantile on May 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I have not advanced the business plan because it very difficult to advance a $200 million project in the financial environment we are currently in.

    James,

    What you need to do is figure out a way your business plan could help Big Corn and then you’d get the 42 senators in what are considered the 21 farm states to throw some subsidies your way. Perhaps something as simple as using No. 2 field corn as the primary feedstock in your biomass gasifer. :-)

    [link]      
  104. By rrapier on May 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Why bother turning the NG to methanol anyway? That just burns up 30% of the btu’s before it ever gets near an engine. Simpler and more energy efficient to use LNG, no?

    I missed this yesterday, but yes, that is exactly what I have argued for years over corn ethanol. It doesn’t make much sense to inefficiently convert natural gas to ethanol when we could just burn the gas directly. Regarding your comment about fossil fuels being mandated, isn’t that what we do with ethanol? Of course they don’t “have” to do it that way, but it is the most economical way.

    So a mandate could just cover methanol – period. Whichever way is most economical to make it, with the understanding that long term it can be made from biomass.

    RR

    [link]      
  105. By Perry on May 24, 2010 at 12:14 am

    “and then you’d get the 42 senators in what are considered the 21 farm states to throw some subsidies your way.”

    The subsidy for methanol is 33% more than the subsidy for ethanol Wendell. 60 cents per gallon versus 45.

    “So a mandate could just cover methanol – period.”

    Let’s just say a methanol mandate would be “problematic” Robert. Methanol has several negative qualities to overcome. For one thing,it’s highly toxic. 10 milliliters can blind you. 30 can kill. What is that, a teaspoonful? I read over an emissions test run on some of those Ford FFV’s using M85 earlier today. The formaldehyde levels in the exhaust were as much as 10X higher than gasoline. Formaldehyde is a toxic gas. Are you sure you’d throw your hand up to vote for something that puts 10X as much formaldehyde in the air? Not exactly a win/win proposition come re-election time.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t take advantage of every alternative out there. Congress already subsidizes methanol. It’s hard to imagine a majority going along with a mandate though. There’s just too much downside.

    [link]      
  106. By rrapier on May 24, 2010 at 3:33 am

    The subsidy for methanol is 33% more than the subsidy for ethanol Wendell. 60 cents per gallon versus 45.

    That’s actually not true at all. There are numerous ethanol specific subsidies that cause the net ethanol subsidy to be far greater than a methanol subsidy. Rules have been changed in more recent energy legislation to level up the playing field, but the horses had long left the starting gate.

    Let’s just say a methanol mandate would be “problematic” Robert. Methanol has several negative qualities to overcome.

    Name a fuel that doesn’t have negative qualities. Gasoline is highly toxic. Denatured ethanol is toxic. Carbon monoxide kills people every year. Acetaldehyde is poisonous. A methanol mandate is no more problematic than an ethanol mandate.

    RR

    [link]      
  107. By Perry on May 24, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    Name a fuel that doesn’t have negative qualities. Gasoline is highly toxic. Denatured ethanol is toxic. Carbon monoxide kills people every year. Acetaldehyde is poisonous. A methanol mandate is no more problematic than an ethanol mandate.

    RR


    Of all those, only ethanol has a mandate from Congress. And ethanol is only denatured so people won’t purposely drink it. Ingesting a tiny amount of methanol can be lethal. Absorption through the skin can be lethal. Even the fumes are toxic. You may have better luck asking Congress to mandate the use of arsenic in drinking water. Seriously Robert, be careful around that stuff.

    [link]      
  108. By Ronald Steenblik on May 24, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Éxcellent post, Robert! I learned a lot from both your original article and the subsequent discussion, especially the comments from Walt, Perry and Russ Finley. I have to agree even with Rufus on one comment: that there is no 15 billion gallons a year cap on corn-ethanol production, only that limit on how much obligated parties are required to blend.

    I appreciate, also, the link somebody provided to the http://www.jonathanbwilson.com/id83.html web site — a good reference.

    Regarding the available tax credits, Robert, it would be helpful if you could confirm that the $1 per gallon methanol available at Houston is NOT being sold for transport fuel (at least not directly) and therefore is NOT benefiting from any blenders’ credit.

    Somebody also pointed out that there is more than 5% methanol in biodiesel (www.journeytoforever.org/biodiesel_meth.html says the number is somewhere between 8-13%). However, the methanol is not simply blended into the vegetable oils, it is incorporated into the final product (fatty-acid methyl ester). Biodiesel may have lots of other problems (particularly cost), but my understanding is that it is not corrosive.

    Clearly, as you have pointed out, Robert, there is a strong gio-political bias towards policies that support farm states. And I think your arguments about the flexibility and low cost of methanol are the important ones. But I hope you are not serious about lobbying for a M5 mandate! We have too much of that kind of government intervention in the markets already. (And, I would imagine, that you could only get through an M5 mandate by negotiating a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” kind of deal with the ethanol lobby.) A carbon tax, or a low carbon fuel standard, would at least have the merit of being more technologically neutral.

    Finally, I have transport-economist colleagues who have long talked up DME. Is there a similar fuel that could be produced from methanol that could be used as a substitute for Jet-A aviation fuel?

    [link]      
  109. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 6:56 am

    James said:

    I have worked out a business plan that shows methanol production to be cost effective for a variety of feedstock costs, fuel costs, and methanol costs. The plan uses biomass gasification as the source of the methanol. I have not advanced the business plan because it very difficult to advance a $200 million project in the financial environment we are currently in. I wish that I could have received some of the grants that Range Fuels received for their project but the support is simply not there for methanol production as a fuel.

    The Renewable Fuel Standard has made methanol more attractive but it still has a long way to go.


     

    James, contact me via our website:  http://www.gastechno.com  I think with some modifications to your business plan comparing and contrasting technologies, there might be an opportunity to implement a small scale project.  Although we have had limited interest in the USA during the past four years in direct methane-to-methanol conversion, I can say within the past 90 days the low natural gas prices have changed my inbox.

    We have not only more interest domestically due to the low gas prices, but we just signed our first agreement to have an investment bank help us source some outside funding for several demo plants.

    We also signed an agreement (after their review of our technology giving us credibility) with who I consider to be the world leading in design-build of pilot and demo plants.  The company is Zeton and here is their customer list:  http://www.zeton.com/site/customers.html

    We have not put together a business plan of sorts for America yet in any great detail, since our focus has been on gas flaring reduction, but if you have something already in place…there is a lot of demand for methanol in this country beyond the automobile.  I would agree we will likely never get any access to the gas stations in America, but there is biodiesel plants idle all over the place due to high feedstock costs, including the uncertainity of methanol import prices.  I believe we need some domestic production of methanol.

    I personally spoke two weeks ago with the largest domestic user/importer of methanol into America (www.hexion.com) and they seemed to be very interested in finding a source of domestic supply…but the guy I talked with has to push the information uphill to get interest.  I can tell you first hand that I get lots of interest at the engineer level, then as it moves up the chain there is not “business plan” for methanol in America.  These guys might be the exception.  We just have to compete with $1.00 to $2.00+/gallon prices from Methanex.  We are less than $0.50 in multiple scales (all mini to small scale) and we can compete on price.  If there is actual subsidies out there too, and we could somehow figure out how they would effect our technology on methanol, that could help us, but we have never looked at the subsidies or tax credits in detail since oour market has been focused outside of America the past 3-4 years on flared gas reductions.

    [link]      
  110. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Perry said:


    Of all those, only ethanol has a mandate from Congress. And ethanol is only denatured so people won’t purposely drink it. Ingesting a tiny amount of methanol can be lethal. Absorption through the skin can be lethal. Even the fumes are toxic. You may have better luck asking Congress to mandate the use of arsenic in drinking water. Seriously Robert, be careful around that stuff.
     


     

     It is these types of comments which scare people that have little knowledge on the subject of methanol.  There is methanol being used in biodiesel in people’s homes, and people blend it already.  Nobody is drinking it, just like nobody is drinking gasoline or the diesel fuel.  The emissions of methanol are far cleaner and safer than either gasoline or diesel fuel.

    I participated in a limited way to a US governmet study done in Nigeria where they concluded to use “methanol stoves” for people’s homes as the best and cheapest source of cooking.  The current use in many parts of rural Africa is to use blocks of coal, or wood, or diesel fuel/kerosine and the emissions are killing people.  Nobody is drinking these fuels, but they are using them in a closed environment inside their homes, and all the cancers are growing from the emissions.  The methanol stoves option came from the safety of methanol stoves used by the marine and boating industry where stoves are used on watercraft.  They are expensive, but there are two Chinese companies making methanol stoves now, and the prices are dramatically lower than in America and in Europe.

    The issues with fermaldehyde emissions from methanol is already address in automobiles.  I believe it is cited in the report above I quoted from Lotus Engineering.  Methanol fuel cells have also addressed the issues succesfully.  In fact, more formaldehyde emissions come from natural gas compressors, and if you think that natural gas engines in auto’s will be free from formaldehyde, think again.  It can be handled, but it is the nature of combusting methane…you get methanol, formaldehyde, CO2, CO and water.

    Again, it is the scare tactics above that is always the focus of methanol, and the ethanol “lobby” trying to push us out of the USA.  It is the nature of lobbies to do anything for money to destroy the reputation of someone or something…and make it look innocent.  There is an entire other side of the story which often does not get into the press….that is why I was surprised to see Robert’s comments so positive in America.

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  111. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Ronald Steenblik said:

    Finally, I have transport-economist colleagues who have long talked up DME. Is there a similar fuel that could be produced from methanol that could be used as a substitute for Jet-A aviation fuel?


     

    I agree…it is being blended already in China with LPG and considered by Volvo to be their #1 preferred fuel for commercial trucks in the future.

     

    I wrote this to my email list some months ago when trying to look for solutions, and compare ourselves to ethanol.  I will repost it here:

     

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    We were
    discussing the  “Production Incentives for Cellulosic Biofuels;
    Reverse Auction Procedures and Standards”, in part, says:

    “In an effort to treat all potential biofuels
    equally, section 452.5 of this final rule modifies the proposed rule by
    requiring bidders to set forth their calculation of the fuel selected
    for their bids on a gasoline equivalent volumetric basis using the
    lower
    heating Btu value (LHV) of the fuel compared to the LHV of gasoline.
    Awards similarly shall be issued on a gasoline equivalent volumetric
    basis.”

    It is clear that the US government policy
    makers will ONLY CONSIDER the “heating value” compared to
    gasoline when it comes to awarding these contracts. Methanol and
    ethanol
    are low heating value, unfortunately.

    HOWEVER, if we were
    to look at the future Triflex-Fuel and Flex-Fuel Vehicles as was done
    by
    Lotus in their 2009 report entitled, “Extending the Supply of
    Alcohol Fuels for Energy Security and Carbon Reduction”
    2009-01-2764.

    ————————————————————

    “In summary, for spark-ignition combustion, when blending alcohols
    with gasoline or considering the alcohols as fuels in their own right,
    the lower alcohols methanol and ethanol are superior to gasoline, with
    monotonic degradation in performance from propanol onwards. n-Butanol is

    quantifiably worse than gasoline. In a future transport energy economy
    where ****well-to-wheels energy efficiency**** is a key criterion, the clear
    benefit of only synthesizing C1 and C2 alcohols is plainly apparent:
    they will require less energy to create and will provide higher thermal
    efficiency in use.

    “The technology to enable the
    evolution, not revolution, from the current vehicle fleet to
    equivalent-cost vehicles capable of using closed carbon cycle fuels has
    been described in the form of either triflex-fuel vehicles capable of
    running on any combination of gasoline, ethanol, or methanol, or
    flex-fuel vehicles which can run on pre-blended mixtures of these three
    fuels.”

    ————————————————————

    When we consider methanol more functionally, using the following
    arguments, what is the better alcohol? MeOH or EtOH?

    ————————————————————-
    The
    simplicity of the methanol molecule is what makes it less fuel dense
    than these bulkier alcohols, but it’s also what makes it so great in
    the
    chemical industry. The OH group is one of the most important functional
    groups in the synthesis of a number of products and methanol is the
    most
    basic hydrocarbon compound with an OH group available. The methanol
    market has always been with the chemical industry.

    The use
    of methanol as a fuel would have to be driven by forces other than fuel
    density such as: 1) methanol is cheap, and 2) methanol is clean.

    Because methanol only has 1 carbon, the combustion of methanol
    produces less CO2 per energy value than all of these other fuels. It’s
    also going to burn more completely with a higher ratio of oxygen – not
    that any alcohols burn uncleanly. For fuel cells, it’s going to give
    off
    less CO2 for each watt of power produced.

    Additionally,
    methanol is cheaper to produce than ethanol via conventional means.

    Getting back to the key advantages of the molecule, the answer
    perhaps is in methanol’s functional group – OH. Because of this
    tremendous functional group, methanol is a great synthesis feedstock
    not
    only for the chemical industry, but also the fuels industry. Methanol
    can be used to make gasoline (MTG), DME, and biodiesel –> all of
    which have more widely acceptable fuel densities.

    If you
    think about it, methanol is really an ideal choice. From methanol you
    can
    make the transportation fuels of your choosing whether they be for
    diesel engines (DME and biodiesel) or for gasoline engines (MTG). It’s
    like syngas in a bottle. Make whatever you want.

    ————————————————————-

    Can ethanol do the same thing for clean chemicals and fuels?

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  112. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

    The subsidy for methanol is 33% more than the subsidy for ethanol Wendell. 60 cents per gallon versus 45.

    Perry,

    You neglected to consider the tax credits, incentives, mandates, rebates, and protective tariffs that politicians at both the federal and state level have put in place for corn ethanol. The subsidies for methanol are small beer compared to all the incentives that have been put in place for ethanol.

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  113. By Rufus on May 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Well, I’m going to surprise a few of you, and wish you well. I’m a bit skeptical about your chances, but I’m Not pulling against you. Despite what RR thinks, I’m NOT a lobbyist for Ethanol, but, rather, an Opponent of Foreign Oil.

    If my FF Chevy Impala is okay with Methanol, and M85 sells for 25% less than E85 I’ll be More than happy to fill’er up (especially, if it’s made out of Mississippi Pine.) I’m sure that most of the Citizens of my State will feel the same way. We raise more Pine in Ms than we do corn by a long shot.

    Anyway, best of luck with your endeavor, and may the best (and, cheapest) fuel win.

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  114. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Ronald Steenblik said:

     Is there a similar fuel that could be produced from methanol that could be used as a substitute for Jet-A aviation fuel?


     

    Ronald,

    Yes, Exxon has patented the MTG and a high grade Jet Fuel process from methanol.  Here is a test from GTL last year:

     

    “For now GTL is an interesting process being pursued by Shell, Sasol and
    Lurgi with FT technology.  However, Exxon has an ace in the hole with
    their EMRE methanol to gasoline (jet fuel) technology.  Obviously the
    time is not right for Exxon to step into the GTL arena as long as their
    LNG investments are paying off handsomely.” 

    http://www.glgroup.com/News/Na…..44146.html

     

    I’m familiar with their methanol to diesel fuel technology as well, but our focus currently is on Methanol-to-Gasoline ourselves.  We have got the price so far down to $1.65/gallon based upon a 10 million cubic feet gas well/field.  That new design will be released within the next 60 days, I hope.

     

    We have decided not to fight the ethanol lobby any more…as we do not have the resources.  It is better to “add-on” technologies which don’t even mention methanol as our intermediate chemical, and we think (as we presented last year in London) we will not offend the ethanol lobby, or all the funding that is going into ethanol research.  As you can see, Exxon and others are working in China and Qatar to access very large gas reserves for their Jumbo Plants, and this keeps them out of the Ethanol market here…making everyone happy so to speak.  Our strategy starting last year has been to quit complaining, accept the reality and just avoid the methanol debate and focus on downstream “add-on” solutions.  Making gasoline from natural gas at $1.65 sounds a lot better than making methanol.  You can mention methanol, and immediately everyone is going to drink, rub it all over their skin like suntan lotion, go blind, etc. etc.  You mention gasoline, and noboday talks about drinking it or using it on their skin.  China chose Methanol over Ethanol for good techical reasons…not to mention their large coal (second only to America) base, so the super majors will focus on methanol overseas.  I think it all has to do with this lawsuit against ADM…and the silent settlement…but it is speculation on my part.  I just know after I read this it all made sense to me very quickly…I did not feel so bad afterwards.

     

    After reading this, I no longer take it so serious.  http://www.state.gov/documents…../51052.pdf

     

    ADM is one of the most powerful forces in America, and best to stay under their radar to avoid the problems getting this technology to market.  I really wish the ethanol and methanol people would work together…the Lotus report tries to appeal to both sides.  I also think our new fertilizer product would be absolutely amazing benefit to farmers and growers in America.  Why import it from China if we can do it cheaper here?

     

    We just announced it last week…I think you can find it on Google with some of these key words from part of the release:

    ————————————–

    Gas Technologies Reports Completion of New Fertilizer “Add-On”
    Technology with Inventor and Board of Advisor, Dr. Arthur Nonomura

    PETOSKEY, MI — (May 14, 2010). Gas Technologies LLC (GTL) is pleased
    to report the completed designs and cost/revenue estimations on the new
    GasTechno® fertilizer add-on technology. The solution is technically
    superior to those being promoted worldwide.

    Add-on technologies that formulate GasTechno’s mainstream compounds
    into agricultural products or that contribute alcohols into organic
    derivatives are being engineered into commercial projects. The
    inventor, Dr. Nonomura, has worked on the core agrichemicals and
    horticultural systems with over a hundred international patents issued
    in the field.

    The mixed alcohols straight out of GasTechno’s distillation will
    initially be incorporated into agrichemical adjuvants. One of the
    fundamental features of plant nutrients is that they can be fed through
    leaves as well as roots, provided that the nutrients applied to the
    leaf can make it past its waxy cuticle. Penetration through the
    hydrophobic phylloplane can be accomplished via agricultural wetting
    agents.

    ————————————–

    I know it is more than your question posed, but I expect this will be one of my last posts to give others a chance to “vent their spleen”!

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  115. By takchess on May 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdig…..e-or-hate/
    What exactly is meant here?

    But methanol is a way of storing energy, not a source of energy like gasoline.

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  116. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 11:50 am

    But methanol is a way of storing energy, not a source of energy like gasoline.

    Gasoline is also a way of storing energy and not a source. It stores solar energy that was captured by algae and phtyo-planktons millions of years ago; was transformed into petroleum by high heat and intense pressure; and then refined from crude oil into gasoline. But the only original source of energy was the Sun.

    Whether you burn gasoline, diesel fuel, ethanol, methanol, or natural gas in your car’s engine, you are using captured solar energy that was carried within that motor fuel. If you drive a electric car and the electricity was made by burning coal, you are also using captured sunlight. If you use electricity made by a wind turbine, you are also using the solar energy that drives the planet’s weather system.

    The only true sources of energy (Ur-energy) available to us are the Sun (which is nothing more than a huge fusion reactor) , gravity, nuclear power, and perhaps anti-matter.

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  117. By George Hebbard on May 24, 2010 at 11:55 am

    As a long time volvo nut, I appreciated volvo’s choice of the Bosch fuel injection systems with Lambda Sond, in the 1977 models. This was, I believe, the first air-fuel feedback system on a production car.and makes ‘flexfuel’ possible.

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  118. By Perry on May 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    This is all very confusing. I’m seeing people who hate ethanol because of its energy density, subsidies, reliance on natural gas, and mandates, argue for a mandate for a fuel that’s even less dense, is also heavily subsidized, and relies even more on natural gas. You basically love methanol for the same reasons you hate ethanol. Very confusing indeed.

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  119. By rrapier on May 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    takchess said:

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdig…..e-or-hate/

    What exactly is meant here?

    But methanol is a way of storing energy, not a source of energy like gasoline.


     

    That is simply a mistake. It is true for hydrogen in a fuel cell, but not methanol. Or they are using a very funny definintion of “source of energy.” In any case, if they would provide their definition, I think we could show that gasoline doesn’t meet it if methanol doesn’t meet it.

     

    RR

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  120. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    You basically love methanol for the same reasons you hate ethanol.

    Perry,

    I don’t hate the idea of ethanol as a fuel, what I hate are the political hi-jinks that moved corn ethanol to the forefront despite its lack of technical merit or thermal efficiency (corn ethanol has a low EROEI). The driving force behind corn ethanol was nothing more than a ploy to increase the commodity market for No. 2 field corn across America’s vast Corn Belt. I would also object to corn methanol.

    Looking at alcohols as a fuel, ethanol is probably better if no other reason than it does have a higher energy density than methanol, though in a perfect world, butanol would be the better choice.

    The main reason I favor methanol over ethanol right now is that we don’t need to raise food as a feedstock to make methanol, and the EROEI of methanol is better than that of corn ethanol. There are also several feedstocks we can use, coal (of which we have vast supplies) and natural gas being the two most obvious. We could also fairly easily make methanol from biomass gasifiers that could use a number of organic feedstocks ranging from garbage to waste wood to agricultural waste.

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  121. By rrapier on May 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Perry said:

    Robert Rapier said:

    Name a fuel that doesn’t have negative qualities. Gasoline is highly toxic. Denatured ethanol is toxic. Carbon monoxide kills people every year. Acetaldehyde is poisonous. A methanol mandate is no more problematic than an ethanol mandate.

    RR


    Of all those, only ethanol has a mandate from Congress. And ethanol is only denatured so people won’t purposely drink it. Ingesting a tiny amount of methanol can be lethal. Absorption through the skin can be lethal. Even the fumes are toxic. You may have better luck asking Congress to mandate the use of arsenic in drinking water. Seriously Robert, be careful around that stuff.
     


     

    It doesn’t matter why ethanol is denatured, the fact is that it is and therefore it is toxic. So it is hypocrisy to suggest that methanol is toxic while ignoring the ethanol is toxic. Further, do you realize how much methanol right now is sold commercially in windshield washer fluid? Seriously, we deal with it today in large quantities. Consumers handle it every day. This whole toxicity thing is unfounded scare-mongering.

     

    RR

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  122. By paul-n on May 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Wow, I don’t log in for a few days and miss one of the best discussions yet!

     

    One point that has been missed about the cost of methanol is that when you buy it from Methanex, you are getting 99% pure industrial methanol, suitable for use in chemical manufacture.   If we are using it for fuel, it does not need to be refined to this extent – the production process (from syngas) actually produces small amounts of higher alcohols, which are currently removed.  Leave them in the fuel mix, and the output of a methanol plant can be increased by 50% (http://www.woodgas.com/Science1.pdf), which makes the methyl fuel even cheaper.

    I think the reason why the methanol industry has not aggressively pursued it is that they already have a profitable industry.  They do some lobbying, but not in the same ballpark as the ethanol industry, they just quietly go about their business.  

    As for toxicity, is is really a non issue, and it is easily forgotten that gasoline, when leaked into the environment, is far more dangerous, and toxic than methanol, which is easily eaten by soil bacteria.

    If flex fuel vehicles are not currently  methanol compatible, they should be required to be – the idea is to give as many non gasoline options as possible

    Both E and M (and CNG/LNG) have the potential, in the right engines, to be far more fuel efficient than a gasoline capable engine.  Methanol can outperform diesel, in a diesel engine (http://www.methanol.org/pdfFra…..1-2743.pdf).  It is entirely achievable, with current techonology, to have a diesel engines that can also run on these three fuels.  Such a multi fuel engine opens up tremendous possibilities, one of which is that not all fuel must be transported everywhere – E can be used in the midwest where it is made, without the expense of shipping it everywhere.

    Add in hybrid technology and the (energy) mileage of a gasoline vehicle would almost double.  Give it a little plug in capability (say 15 mile range) and betters still.  All of this can be done with today’s technology, (including today’s batteries)

    This is the direction that should be pursued.  Between these four fuel sources, gasoline could be replaced entirely, but the backwards compatibility with gasoline is holding all of them down to the lowest common denominator.

     

    There are many options for fuel feedstocks, both fossil and renewable.   The stranded natural gas in the arctic then has several new options available, as do biogas flare gas, wood gas (coal gas?) etc etc.  

    It’s not a case of having to choose between E & M, they are both so similar that there is no need to separate them.  The real choice is between gasoline, and everything else.

    An animal that relies on only one source of food (e.g pandas and bamboo) is at extreme risk of “supply shocks”.  An omnivorous animal (like people, and bears) can eat almost anything and is far more adaptable, survivable and sustainable.  The same is true for engines.

     

     

     

     


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  123. By rrapier on May 24, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Perry said:

    This is all very confusing. I’m seeing people who hate ethanol because of its energy density, subsidies, reliance on natural gas, and mandates, argue for a mandate for a fuel that’s even less dense, is also heavily subsidized, and relies even more on natural gas. You basically love methanol for the same reasons you hate ethanol. Very confusing indeed.


     

    First, can you identify those who hate ethanol?

     

    Second, it is very confusing to me as well. Those how defend ethanol on those counts when compared against gasoline are using those same arguments AGAINST methanol. So you basically hate methanol for the same reasons you should hate ethanol. This is of course, by the way, why I wrote the article in the first place. There are a lot of ethanol hypocrites out there who are talking out of both sides of their mouths on this one.

     

    For the record, I don’t support a methanol mandate any more than I support an ethanol mandate. At least with subsidies, we can get a clearer picture of the relative economics. For instance, if there is a $0.50 per gallon subsidy – and yet no market penetration – then the economics are probably more than $0.50 per gallon away. With mandates it is much harder to tell. With a mandate you are telling people to do something regardless of cost, and in the long term I don’t think that is good policy because the long-term impacts are more unpredictable.

     

    RR

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  124. By paul-n on May 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    @ George Hebbard;

    This may be splitting hairs, but the 77 Volvo certainly was not the first flex fuel vehicle, or even enabled the technology that makes them possible.  That honour would belong to Henry Ford and the Model T – the world’s first, and still the most produced, flex fuel vehicle ever.  It had adjustable carburettor jets to enable it to run on any combination of gasoline to pure ethanol.  Even todays flex fuels are not rated for pure ethanol – have we really made much progress in 100 years!

    I will grant you that the sensor mechanism allows for automatic adjustment in fuel injected engines, but that is merely catching up with what carburettors could already do.  

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  125. By rrapier on May 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I probably need a follow-up post to tie up some of the loose ends. But one thing I want to make clear here. The Biofuels Digest article suggested that I might have a conflict of interest:

     

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdig…..e-or-hate/

     

    For the record, I have zero involvement in any companies working on methanol. None of our companies are working on methanol. So it is hard to see how I could have a conflict of interest when I have zero (financial) methanol interests.

     

    RR

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  126. By takchess on May 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Re:
    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdig…..e-or-hate/

    What exactly is meant here?

    But methanol is a way of storing energy, not a source of energy like gasoline.

    That is simply a mistake. It is true for hydrogen in a fuel cell, but not methanol. Or they are using a very funny definintion of “source of energy.” In any case, if they would provide their definition, I think we could show that gasoline doesn’t meet it if methanol doesn’t meet it.

    RR

    I think the site refers to it used in a fuel cell not directly being burned. Is that meaningful? thanks JIm

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  127. By rrapier on May 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    takchess said:

    RR

    I think the site refers to it used in a fuel cell not directly being burned. Is that meaningful? thanks JIm


     

    No. I think they have just confused the issue of hydrogen – which is a carrier whether it is burned or consumed in a fuel cell – with that of methanol. But it isn’t the fuel cell that defines hydrogen as a carrier; it is how it is made.

     

    RR

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  128. By Perry on May 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    The main reason I favor methanol over ethanol right now is that we don’t need to raise food as a feedstock to make methanol, and the EROEI of methanol is better than that of corn ethanol. There are also several feedstocks we can use, coal (of which we have vast supplies) and natural gas being the two most obvious. We could also fairly easily make methanol from biomass gasifiers that could use a number of organic feedstocks ranging from garbage to waste wood to agricultural waste.


     

    Are the two alcohols mutually exclusive Wendell ? I can get behind a program that makes better use of domestic resources, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Robert has stated that methanol is already incorporated in gasoline to some degree. Why can’t we incrementally increase the use of both, while at the same time demanding vehicles that can handle a higher mix of alcohols ?

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  129. By Perry on May 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    100% agree with what Paul N. said at 2:15 . We should be using every tool in the box.

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  130. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Further, do you realize how much methanol right now is sold commercially in windshield washer fluid?

    Robert is correct about that. Virtually every new car delivered from an assembly plant has a reservoir of windshield washer fluid under the hood that is mostly methanol. In fact, I — like many people — keep a jug of windshield washer fluid sitting in my garage. I checked its ingredient label and it is primarily methanol with some dye and surfactants added.

    If people wanted to get their panties in a twist about the toxicity of methanol, windshield washer fluid would have long ago been banned.

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  131. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Why can’t we incrementally increase the use of both, while at the same time demanding vehicles that can handle a higher mix of alcohols ?

    Perry,

    I have no objections to that, as long as we aren’t using corn as the pathway for inefficiently turning natural gas into ethanol.

    It would be more efficient to turn the natural gas directly into methanol, than to turn NG into anhydrous nitrogen, and then use that to grow corn, and then to use even more NG to distill the fermented corn mash into corn ethanol.

    If some smart chemical engineer figures out a way to turn NG directly into ethanol, I would have no problem with that. Although Big Corn and the farm state senators would object mightily were someone to make that discovery. For all I know, perhaps someone has already figured that out and Big Corn paid them to be silent, just as people used to claim Big Oil paid the inventors of 100 mpg carburetors to remain silent. ;-)

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  132. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    I probably need a follow-up post to tie up some of the loose ends. But one thing I want to make clear here. The Biofuels Digest article suggested that I might have a conflict of interest:

     

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdig…..e-or-hate/

     

    For the record, I have zero involvement in any companies working on methanol. None of our companies are working on methanol. So it is hard to see how I could have a conflict of interest when I have zero (financial) methanol interests.

     

    RR


     

    I too would like to that I have no investors in our company besides friends, family and employees.  Referencing our video in the article was a blessing to us to bring the topic of our technology into the discussion, but as the article points out the focus is on gasification of biomass to methanol and ethanol respectfully.  We are a methane conversion process, not a gasification technology.

    Finally, I can saw for 2-3 years I’ve tried to get my technology into one of Biofuels Digest articles, and have consistently been denied to “tell my story” with their publication.  I notice even in today’s article we are not mentioned, which is just fine.  I tried to post a comment on the article this morning, but it says I am not not able to post a comment.  It brings up a yahoo search engine asking if I want to search something due to the error my posting caused.  I suspect it is just a common problem with his site and my firefox browser, but nevertheless…I will try again tomorrow.

    I think the article they did was fair and reasonable…and anything talking about methanol…outside of the Methanol Institutes heroic efforts to try to get something out there without a massive budget…is a boost for “cooperation” among all these alcohols.  There is room for everyone.

    For example, look at the progress China is making with Methanol…and so why not cooperate here in Methanol and Ethanol?

    “In China, the national
    government released in December 2009 a M85 blend standard
    in
    flex-fuel vehicles and a standard for M15 in standard vehicles. Methanol
    is primarily used in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, where it is produced
    from coal. The country is the largest user of methanol fuels. With
    methanol fuel offering cost-reduction opportunities for drivers, a 2
    million tonne per year illegal blending trade in the fuel has developed,
    according to ICIS.”

    I know it reguires a large commitment for both industries to cooperate…so let’s follow China’s lead:

    The wholesale price of methanol in China is about one third that of gasoline making it cheaper per unit energy contained in the fuel.  About 3.4×109 litres of methanol was blended in gasoline in 2007 [150,151] and many indigenous manufacturers are developing methanol FFVs. National standards for high proportion and low proportion methanol fuels are being put in place and local standards are proliferating [152]. In Shanxi province there are over 2000 M100 taxis and around 400 city buses; 770 methanol fuel stations have been set up [152]. A 100,000 tonne per year methanol-to-gasoline demonstrator plant is being built in this province which will be in service in 2009. The methanol derivative, DME, is also being considered as a diesel substitute; the city of Shanghai had 90 DME buses in operation in 2008 and plans to have 1000 such
    vehicles running in the city by 2010. The rapid implementation of methanol as a transport fuel in China demonstrates the ease with which the
    technology can be applied, the low cost of the vehicles in which the fuel is used, and the low cost of the fuel distribution infrastructure.”

    http://www.ecolo.org/documents…..tus_09.pdf

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  133. By paul-n on May 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Surely it can’t be that we are approaching a “gasp” consensus, that methanol and ethanol can co-exist, without one needing to be the death of the other?  If that is the case, then the future of this blog is in jeopardy – what happens if we get near agreement on other things too, do we just then talk about the weather?

     

    As much as I don;t like the political games played by the corn and ethanol lobbies, they have actually done something that no other alternative fuel has been able to do – get into almost universal use (as E10).

    Now that flex fuel vehicles can be made for $75 extra it is time to embrace alcohol (in both forms) as a fuel.  Ethanol has broken trail, and methanol should team up, and both go into battle against gasoline.  This is a far stronger position,enables all feedstocks to be used, and  does more to move towards energy independence.

    I think the key lies in adopting the engine technology that gives the dramatic leap in efficiency.  If the M/E/NG flex fuel vehicle was available today, that got 43% peak efficiency (as opposed to about 30% for gasoline), I think it would be a serious seller.  And given that it can be done with an existing diesel engine block, and cheap port fuel injection, it would still be cost competitive.  The Ricardo engine is choosing a slightly more complicated route (direct injection) but heding to the same result.

    Chevy (GM) had a marketing campaign that said “gas friendly to gas free”  they actually meant hydrogen, but M/E/NG is gas free, is possible, and affordable.

    Get it right, so you have a product that the people want, rather than something they feel is forced upon them, and you are off to the races.

    We do not need to choose one or the other –  a restaurant need not choose between steak and lobster – put both on the menu (or even on the same plate!) and it will do better than by either one alone.

     

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  134. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    …it is time to embrace alcohol (in both forms) as a fuel.

    Paul,

    Don’t forget to make room for butanol — probably the best form of fuel alcohol.

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  135. By Bargeman on May 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm
    I am putting together a pyrolsis plant 30 ton/ day to torrify urban wood waste. In the process it will give off about 30% in volatiles which is mostly methanol. It is a by product of the troifaction plant. The torrified wood is a perfect product to co-fire with coal. There would be no need to modify the coal fired plant. The problem is no one wants a refinery to make methanol in their back yard. I can use the volatiles to help fire the plants burners. It would be a true carbon netural product to use with biodiesel or burn and it would be cost effective to make. Do you know of anyone interested in developimg this plant with me in South Carolina..
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  136. By paul-n on May 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Wendell,

     

    I disagree with you on butanol.  It is the best alcohol if you are wanting to keep using gasoline – can be blended in any ratio, high energy density, no engine mods, can be used in existing pipelines etc.  BUT the higher chain alcohols lose the heat of vaporisation advantage of M and E (though you could make up for it with water), and it won;t achieve the same thermal efficiency as M or E.

    Mixed in in small amounts (from the M production process) is fine, but, presently,no one has a way of competitively producing it for fuel.

     

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  137. By paul-n on May 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    There is another important consideration for voting gasoline off the island.  Once we do that, and are running on A100 (M or E in any ratio) we get another benefit – the alcohol does NOT have to be anhydrous.  It can have up to 20% water content with no ill effects – and, under high engine loads, a beneficial effect.  (Brazilian E100 is actually 5% water)

    Not having to dehydrate the alcohols saves a production step, and capital and operating cost, also improves the EROEI of the process.  

    Would be a great help for Rufus’ small scale plants, you just distill, and you are done without needing molecular seive dehydration.

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  138. By paul-n on May 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Having said that M and E can happily co-exist, there is one trick that you can do with M that you can’t with E (or any other liquid fuel).

    And that would be on- board steam reforming of methanol using engine exhaust heat.  Methanol steam reforms into hydrogen rich syngas (2CH3OH + H20 > 2CO + 5H2).  This reaction is, of course, endothermic, and the reaction products have 17% more energy than the methanol itself.  The key is that for methanol it occurs at temperatures of around 300C, less than the engine exhaust temperature. You can steam reform ethanol (and even gasoline) but both need 700C plus, so you can do it with the waste heat.  The water required can come from the hydrated methanol itself (21% water content is the right mix)

    So we now have 117% of the original energy, and a fuel gas that has the cleanest combustion characteristics of any.   H2 can burn over a wide range of air/fuel mixes and burns more completely as it is not quenched by the cylinder walls.  

    For this reforming to work best, the engine needs to be warmed up, so it would be best for cruising.

    BUT if we put this engine in a Volt style series hybrid, then it can run at its peak efficiency all the time. Assuming the engine gets 40% efficiency on Syngas, with 117% of the fuel energy, we have a total of 47% thermal efficiency.  With the characteristics of a serial hybrid, incl regenerative braking, the real world tank to wheels efficiency would be around 35%, compared to 15% for standard ICE cars, and about 20% for a Prius, and 25% for a Volt.  So the miles per gallon would be similar or better than a normal car today.

    Of course, this is not a new idea, it was looked by some Japanese folks (incl Nissan) in 1999, (http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/…..985860.php).  This was when oil was $20/bbl so it;s not surprising that it was not pursued further.

    “Results showed the methanol reformed gas engine had the highest thermal efficiency in richer mixture condition than hydrogen combustion, and cleared influences of engine speed, compression ratio, and reduction of surface/volume ratio of combustion chamber on thermal efficiency and exhaust emissions.”

    Methanol has long been used for racing, to maximise power, but this shows what *can* be done if we start out with the goal of maximising efficiency.  The only other engines that can get above 45% are the massive marine diesels and latest generation industrial gas turbines.

    To be able to remove engine size from the efficiency equation in an automotive sized engine is a huge step forward.

     

    Footnote- If that fuel mixture contained higher chain alcohols, they would not get reformed, but would just go through to engine in either gaseous or liquid form (depending whether the syngas is cooled or not).  we would still get full energy value out of them, just not the enhanced value.  So a mixed alcohol fuel would not preclude this system, it would just deliver greatest benefits on pure methanol.

     

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  139. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Paul N said:

    Wendell,

    I disagree with you on butanol.  It is the best alcohol if you are wanting to keep using gasoline – can be blended in any ratio, high energy density, no engine mods, can be used in existing pipelines etc.  BUT the higher chain alcohols lose the heat of vaporisation advantage of M and E (though you could make up for it with water), and it won;t achieve the same thermal efficiency as M or E.

    Mixed in in small amounts (from the M production process) is fine, but, presently,no one has a way of competitively producing it for fuel.

     


     

    This comes from the Lotus report as well:

    “It should be noted that while ethanol and methanol offer some
    significant advantages over gasoline as fuels for spark-ignition
    engines (listed at the beginning of this section), the
    normal-configuration higher alcohols exhibit progressively degraded
    knock resistance such that propanol could considered only slightly
    better than gasoline, and n-butanol and n-pentanol significantly worse.
    Yacoub, Bata, and Gautum [45] and Gautum and Martins [46] have shown
    that whether a binary mixture of gasoline and alcohols or
    multiple-blends are considered (all with controlled oxygen content)
    methanol and ethanol clearly produce superior fuels to the higher
    alcohols.

    The gasoline they used, UTG-964 [47], had a research octane number of
    96 and so can be considered representative of a premium US gasoline or
    a regular European one. More recently Cairns et al. [48] have also
    tested blends of different alcohols in a more modern engine
    configuration with direct injection and turbocharging, and their
    full-load results indicate that matched-oxygencontent blends of ethanol
    or n-butanol with gasoline provide better and worse knock resistance
    than the base 95 RON fuel respectively. Thus the normal alcohol
    molecules considered to be beneficial in blends with gasoline are those
    with up to only two carbon atoms. In general however the alcohols
    display similar characteristics to the paraffins as the molecule is
    branched. Popuri and Bata [49] suggest that the branched molecules of
    isobutanol make it the equal of ethanol and methanol as a blending
    component but at the expense of considerable extra complication in the
    manufacturing process over n-butanol, the fuel most readily
    manufactured and generally used by other researchers (note that Popuri
    and Bata were using a CFR engine with a carburettor and did not test
    all of the fuels at exactly the same equivalence ratio [49]).

    In summary, for spark-ignition combustion, when blending alcohols with
    gasoline or considering the alcohols as fuels in their own right, the
    lower alcohols methanol and ethanol are superior to gasoline, with
    monotonic degradation in performance from propanol onwards. n-Butanol
    is quantifiably worse than gasoline. In a future transport energy
    economy where well-to-wheels energy efficiency is a key criterion, the
    clear benefit of only synthesizing C1 and C2 alcohols is plainly
    apparent: they will require less energy to create and will provide
    higher thermal efficiency in use.”

    http://www.ecolo.org/documents…..tus_09.pdf

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  140. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Can someone help me understand the value of building LNG facilities, and 8 million tracktor trucks to run Natural Gas?

     

    “What does he propose? We have thousands of trillions of cubic feet of
    natural gas. Once the liquids are separated out, natural
    gas
    needs no refinery to bring it to the American consumer. We have
    8 million tractor trailers – big trucks that haul a lot of our nation’s
    freight. Over a decade we can replace them with similar trucks using
    natural gas. We could even make liquefied natural gas and use that…That bill is before Congress but some oppose it because car makers would
    have to add $100 of equipment per car to comply with the bill. Mr.
    Pickens said at least the U.S. Government, which buys 200,000 cars,
    could covert all of them to natural gas.” T. Boone Pickens’ energy plan for America

    http://www.speroforum.com/a/33…..or-America

    ———————————–

    Compared with:

    ———————————–

    “The development of a Tri-Flex-Fuel vehicle, capable of operating on any
    combination of gasoline, ethanol, and methanol, using a single fuel
    system is also described.  The low additional technology and materials
    costs of such vehicles demonstrates that compatible, affordable
    transport can be developed which provides a feasible means of vehicle
    evolution towards decarbonized transport without the consequences of
    huge stranded assets which would be imposed on the automotive industry
    by the revolution which would be required to mass-produce hydrogen fuel
    cell vehicles and batteryelectric vehicles.”  http://www.ecolo.org/documents…..tus_09.pdf

     

    [link]      
  141. By Walt on May 24, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Here we go…hot off the press today:

    Study of Vapor Pressures of Gasoline-Alcohol Blends Finds That
    Dual-Alcohol Blends Can Result in RVPs Identical to That of Gasoline

    http://www.greencarcongress.co…..00523.html

    “At high blending concentrations (70-85%), however, the propanols and
    butanols may produce problematically low RVPs.”

    [link]      
  142. By Wendell Mercantile on May 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    It is the best alcohol if you are wanting to keep using gasoline – can be blended in any ratio, high energy density, no engine mods, can be used in existing pipelines etc.

    All true Paul, but it will be year and years until all the gasoline-powered cars are phased through the system and our entire vehicle fleet could be powered by either E100, M100, or some combo of the two. Butanol would provide an easy-to-use fuel alcohol for those cars that could be adopted to the existing gasoline distribution infrastructure with complete transparency.

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  143. By sandeep kumar on May 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Methanol as fuel: Challenges

    1. Cellulosic biomass has oxygen 40-45% (dry basis) while methanol has 50% of oxygen (higher than biomass). So, no upgradation in energy density!

    2. Five times more toxic than ethanol.

    3. Incompatible with many general materials used in petroleum storage and transfer system.

    I think methanol is a good intermediate than a fuel.

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  144. By K. D. on May 25, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Well my friends, lets to remind you – methanol is not “just toxic”, it is deadly toxic. Just 30 mL of it makes a human go blind forever, over this amount….dead. Now imagine, a bad, crazy person (not mention Islamic terrorists) takes a canister, goes to the nearby gas station……….You can finish the picture.

    [link]      
  145. By paul-n on May 25, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Actually, I can;t finish that picture.  Exactly what do you mean?  Do you mean someone can fill up a canister with methanol and do something bad, that they couldn’t do just by buying the methanol from Home Depot, or any hardware or auto supplies store?  I have a one gallon container of the stuff at home at all times.  Use it for thinning shellac for woodwork, cleaning anything before gluing, and running the alcohol stove in my camper, or fondue set.

    Every time you go to a banquet and see chafing trays being kept warm by little blue flame burners that is.. methanol.  Safe enough to be used for food preparation, yet somehow, according to some, not safe enough to be used as a fuel where you never have to touch, or even see, the liquid?  

    It’s time get real here.  So it’s toxic – then don’t drink it!  

    Ethylene glycol (anti freeze) is also quite toxic, and sweet tasting ( a French winery was caught adding this to wine to sweeten it!  They don’t exist anymore)

    I don’t recommend drinking industrial ethanol, or gasoline (carcinogenic) either.

    Since people keep bringing up this straw man, I’d be interested to see some data on how many people suffer from ingesting gasoline each year

    Many groundwater aquifers have been rendered undrinkable from gasoline contamination – that can’t happen with methanol.

    In a fire, it can be put out with water, instead of needing chemical retardants., and it is much harder to set on fire in the first place, let alone cause an explosion.  

    The fact is both methanol and (denatured) ethanol are toxic if ingested, both need different material handling from gasoline, and both are a better fuel.

    Digital cellphones are much better than analogue – thankfully, the fact that they were incompatible with analogue transmission towers did not stop us changing to them – switching to something better is called “progress”.  If new pipelines are needed, or existing ones are to be re-lined in situ, then so be it.  As someone on the Gulf Coast if they think we should keep looking for more oil rather than replacing/relining some pipelines.

    And a final note about the energy density.  The Sandeep Kumar said there is no upgrade in density from biomass, but this is just plain wrong.  The specific density of most wood is about 0.4 to 0.6 (oven dry), but you don;t get solid wood, you get chips or pellets, and the bulk specific density of those is about 0.3  Bales of straw or grass is about the same.  So by turing it into a liquid, you remove the airspace and increase the energy density substantially.  Now, the energy per unit mass of methanol and (dry) wood is about the same, but he was talking about density, which means volume, and there is a significant reduction in that, plus the handling advantages of a liquid fuel.  

    BUt it is less energy dense than gasoline, but so what?  You need a larger fuel tank, or you get reduced range on what you have.  I think, if it means a 10% reduction in fuel cost, most people will take it.

    [link]      
  146. By moiety on May 25, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Paul N said:

    Wendell,

     

    I disagree with you on butanol.  It is the best alcohol if you are wanting to keep using gasoline – can be blended in any ratio, high energy density, no engine mods, can be used in existing pipelines etc.  BUT the higher chain alcohols lose the heat of vaporisation advantage of M and E (though you could make up for it with water), and it won;t achieve the same thermal efficiency as M or E.

    Mixed in in small amounts (from the M production process) is fine, but, presently,no one has a way of competitively producing it for fuel.

     


     

    I disagree but not completely. The higher compressibility of ethanol and methanol is a useful trait but by compressing more you generally have to input more energy to ignite; the question here is where the advantage ends (probably not at a low pressure).

    The low heat of vapourisation of butanol is advantageous; less cold weather issues; less energy required to vapourise it so therefore less energy used (potentially) in distillation and in the engine itself.

    [link]      
  147. By rrapier on May 25, 2010 at 3:07 am

    Ethylene glycol (anti freeze) is also quite toxic, and sweet tasting
    ( a French winery was caught adding this to wine to sweeten it!  They
    don’t exist anymore)

     

    I am about to write a follow-up, and that is exactly one of the points I was going to make. I was going to point out that it is toxic AND sweet. We buy all kinds of toxic compounds. This whole toxicity issue is scare-mongering.

     

    RR

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  148. By carbonbridge on May 25, 2010 at 8:47 am

    RR:  I agree with you.  There is an abundance of scare-mongering in this thread regarding MeOH’s toxicity.  Methanol is poisonous to injest.  So is gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, bunker oil, window cleaner and anti-freeze.  Mammals and reptiles don’t adequately process single-carbon methanol yet these same creatures can tolerate some levels of two-carbon ethanol before getting drunk.  Funny thing is, single-celled organisms, phytoplankton, bacteria and all living green plants and trees can process, eat and grow by consuming either of these two basic alcohols when diluted into water.

    The exact opposite scenario of an oil spill floating in the Gulf is the water solubility and biodegradability aspects of linear-chained alcohols.

    For what it is worth, should someone drink blue windshield washer solvent which contains methanol – the first thing to do is put a finger down the throat and expell as much of this C1 MeOH alcohol as possible.  Next, immediately begin consuming C2 ethanol hard liquor (whiskey, gin, tequila, etc.) in excess quantities.  This is to confuse the human liver between a one-carbon and a two-carbon alcohol.  Expect a hangover.

    Even alcoholics and winos understand that too much C2 ethanol is poisonous and lethal as well.

    Get real and become educated folks.  Please quit the disinformation campaign here. 

    Methanol is produced via GTL or gas-to-liquids processes on a 24×7 continous and thermal steam-heat basis.  Ethanol is typically produced via inefficient four-day batch fermentation using acidic enzymes and yeasts as the process drivers.  These two alcohols are only one carbon atom different in their molecular structure but the processes used to produce them are nearly opposite of each other.  The carbon atom(s) in each alcohol don’t have to come from corn starch.  These building blocks can come from coal, methane, CO2, garbage, sewer sludge, petroleum coke, beetle-killed pine or ground tires. 

    A carbon is a carbon is a carbon basic building block here.  The paradigm-shift is the process drivers and/or catalysts used to rearrange these building blocks WHILE ADDING an Oxygen atom to a hydrocarbon recipe (float-on-water oil) and thus converting it into a water soluble, biodegradable, oil soluble, coal soluble fuel alcohol.

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  149. By Wendell Mercantile on May 25, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Well my friends, lets to remind you – methanol is not “just toxic”, it is deadly toxic. Now imagine, a bad, crazy person (not mention Islamic terrorists) takes a canister, goes to the nearby gas station……

    K.D.

    Anyone who wants can already go into any big box store, auto supply store, or even a super market, and buy as many jugs of methanol as he or she wants in the form of windshield washer fluid.

    Anyone can also already walk into any hardware store and buy any number of toxic and volatile solvents such as acetone, toluene, and methyl ethyl ketone.

    [link]      
  150. By Rick LeBlanc on May 25, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Until Recently I was CEO of Chemrec AB – a swedish company that converts biomass to methanol or DME via gasification and syngas conversion.

    The company is developing integrated biorefineries that would take ‘black liquor’ a wood-waste from a pulp mill and convert it to biofuels or green chemicals.  The company has development site in Sweden and was awarded the largest ever biorefienry grant in Europe (Euro50 million) subject to approval by the EC.

    I was also head of the North American Affairs Committee of the International DME Association – a group trying to promote merits of DME in North America.

    While the merits of methanol are widely understood and accepted by the scientific community and even parts of the EPA – methanol as a transportation fuel is not widely accepted by the government agencies that grant funds for biofuel development. 

    [link]      
  151. By paul-n on May 25, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Moiety said;

     

    I disagree but not completely. The higher compressibility of ethanol and methanol is a useful trait but by compressing more you generally have to input more energy to ignite; the question here is where the advantage ends (probably not at a low pressure).

    The low heat of vapourisation of butanol is advantageous; less cold weather issues; less energy required to vapourise it so therefore less energy used (potentially) in distillation and in the engine itself.

    Moiety, I will have to disagree with you here.  The higher heat of vap for M and E means less energy is expended on compressing the air, in effect, giving evaporative cooling.  The energy goes into vaporising the fuel, instead of heating the air – you move closer to isothermal compression instead of adiabatic, so it actually takes less energy.

    This can be seen by the efficiency maps for M and E on pg 4 and 5 of this paper;

    http://www.methanol.org/pdfFra…..1-2743.pdf

    The higher heat of vap for M gives 2-3% points better efficiency at all ranges.

    The cold weather issue can be simply solved with glow plugs/electric pre-heating of fuel, no real problem there.

    As for distilling butanol, it has a low heat of vap but a higher vapor pressure than water, so in distillation, you actually have to boil off water to leave butanol behind (water goes “over the top”)  Once the butanol gets above 7% it will then phase out and float to the surface.  Problem is, the clostridium bacteria that produce it can only tolerate 1-2% butanol, 7% will kill them, so you end up having to go to batch production, and evaporating 5 volumes of water per volume of butanol!

    This is the man reason why biological production of butanol was abandoned once it could be made inorganically from NG – no distillation is required.  RR is the expert on this topic – as far as I know, no one has yet solved the 7% problem for biological production.

     

    [link]      
  152. By Wendell Mercantile on May 25, 2010 at 11:48 am

    – methanol as a transportation fuel is not widely accepted by the government agencies that grant funds for biofuel development.

    Rick~

    Very true, because Big Corn and Big Ag would derive little benefit from methanol as they do for corn ethanol and bio-diesel, and their lobbyists and the farm state politicians have far too much influence with those government agencies that fund biofuel development.

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  153. By paul-n on May 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Rick, trying to promote methanol and DME – that must have been a frustrating job!  

     

    Wendell, the funny thing is, for the corn growers, that it doesn’t matter whether corn gets turned into E or M, either way, their product can be used as a feedstock, and if you are making M, you can use the whole plant, not just the corn.  You could harvest with a silage chopper instead of a combine, it doesn;t matter it it is not great quality, or weather damaged, etc.  Also, you will get 50% more tons per acre, and considering that E can only use the starch component of the corn, your overall fuel yield is probably 3x with M than it is with E – what’s not to like?

    Not good for the E industry, to be sure, but for the corn growers, and farmers in general, the more options for using their product, the better!

    [link]      
  154. By Herm on May 25, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    “Further, do you realize how much methanol right now is sold commercially in windshield washer fluid? Seriously, we deal with it today in large quantities. Consumers handle it every day. This whole toxicity thing is unfounded scare-mongering.”

    Methanol has been used to fuel model airplanes engines for 60 years.. usually in 2-stroke engines that exhaust lots of unburned methanol.. I have never heard of any poisoning cases and lots of kids have been exposed.

    [link]      
  155. By David L. Hagen on May 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Some economics on biomass to methanol:

    Future prospects for production of methanol and hydrogen from biomass
    Carlo N. Hamelinck & André P. C. Faaij
    Abstract
    Technical and economic prospects of the future production of methanol and hydrogen from biomass have been evaluated. A technology review, including promising future components, was made, resulting in a set of promising conversion concepts. Flowsheeting models were made to analyse the technical performance. Results were used for economic evaluations. Overall energy efficiencies are around 55% HHV for methanol and around 60% for hydrogen production. Accounting for the lower energy quality of fuel compared to electricity, once-through concepts perform better than the concepts aimed for fuel only production. Hot gas cleaning can contribute to a better performance. Systems of 400 MWth input produce biofuels at US$ 8–12/GJ, this is above the current gasoline production price of US$ 4–6/GJ. This cost price is largely dictated by the capital investments. The outcomes for the various system types are rather comparable, although concepts focussing on optimised fuel production with little or no electricity co-production perform somewhat better. Hydrogen concepts using ceramic membranes perform well due to their higher overall efficiency combined with modest investment. Long-term (2020) cost reductions reside in cheaper biomass, technological learning, and application of large scales up to 2000 MWth. This could bring the production costs of biofuels in the US$ 5–7/GJ range. Biomass-derived methanol and hydrogen are likely to become competitive fuels tomorrow.

    For biomass to methanol to gasoline see:
    Techno-economic Analysis for the Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Gasoline via the Methanol-to-Gasoline (MTG) Process
    This also assumes converting gasoline.

    [link]      
  156. By moiety on May 26, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Paul N said:

    Moiety, I will have to disagree with you here.  The higher heat of vap for M and E means less energy is expended on compressing the air, in effect, giving evaporative cooling.  The energy goes into vaporising the fuel, instead of heating the air – you move closer to isothermal compression instead of adiabatic, so it actually takes less energy.

    This can be seen by the efficiency maps for M and E on pg 4 and 5 of this paper;

    http://www.methanol.org/pdfFra…..1-2743.pdf

    The higher heat of vap for M gives 2-3% points better efficiency at all ranges.

    The cold weather issue can be simply solved with glow plugs/electric pre-heating of fuel, no real problem there.

    As for distilling butanol, it has a low heat of vap but a higher vapor pressure than water, so in distillation, you actually have to boil off water to leave butanol behind (water goes “over the top”)  Once the butanol gets above 7% it will then phase out and float to the surface.  Problem is, the clostridium bacteria that produce it can only tolerate 1-2% butanol, 7% will kill them, so you end up having to go to batch production, and evaporating 5 volumes of water per volume of butanol!

    This is the man reason why biological production of butanol was abandoned once it could be made inorganically from NG – no distillation is required.  RR is the expert on this topic – as far as I know, no one has yet solved the 7% problem for biological production.

     


    Thnaks for that; the effect on the fuel mixture and air was a calculation in my mind that will go to the bottom of my to do pile. And yes the cold weather is a non issue in reality. The article is a really go visual tool as well.

    http://www.ngksparkplugs.com/p…..s/glow.asp

     

    I am aware of the butanol distillation. I would not ike to compare the butanol, methanol processes as I have not got enough info specifically on methanoil state of the art from biomass. However a butanol distillation will be more efficient than ethanol though a lower biomass yields will result so there is a trade off. The higher energy content is probably the net increase on ethanol.

     

     

    [link]      
  157. By Walt on May 27, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    But given that methanol is currently selling for $1/gal from $4/mmbtu natural gas, it isn’t going to cost a whole lot more to produce methanol from $3.33/mmbtu biomass. Applying Rufus thinking, let’s say $1.10, or I can be really conservative and go to $1.20. Unsubsidized. (I guarantee you that you can do it for under $1.50, and with $50/ton biomass Fiberight is going to come in above $2 (probably well above $2 to be honest) and still require lots of subsidies to move forward).
     

    Walt, you want to run through some economics for us?

     

    RR


     

    Ok, we have run the economics based upon a feed cost of $3.33/mmbtu using the following biogas specification:

    mol%  C1 75.0%
    mol%  C2 0.0%
    mol%  C3 0.0%
    mol%  N2 0.0%
    mol%  CO2 25.0%
    mol%  H2S 0.0%
     PSIA        15

    The scale of plant would be 30 mmscfd (far less than traditional 200+ mmscfd jumbo scale)

    It works out at $0.961 cost of production on an ~$80 million CAPEX (including O2 and on-sight utilities generation)

    NPV = $81.4 MM
    IRR = 28.4%
    Payback Period = 3.28  years 

    There is no subsidies or tax credits in the calculations since we see they expire at the end of 2010 in the document we reviewed.  There is no value given for Carbon Credits either, however, this aspect continues to be of able to provide about 10% additional revenues when structured.

     

    [link]      
  158. By Walt on May 27, 2010 at 3:57 am

    David L. Hagen said:

    For biomass to methanol to gasoline see:

    Techno-economic Analysis for the Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Gasoline via the Methanol-to-Gasoline (MTG) Process

    This also assumes converting gasoline.


     

    The report states:

    It is recommended that other processing
    alternatives should be simulated to identify the extent of process
    improvements. Such options should include:
    -
    Consolidated gas
    cleanup,
    -
    Alternative MTG reactor designs such as fluid-bed or
    shell & tube,
    -
    Consolidated synthesis with once through
    DME/Methanol reactors.

    ———————————

    We are in full agreement with the authors recommendations.  Some of those recommendation can cut the gasoline production cost substantially.

    [link]      
  159. By karabas on May 27, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Paul N said:

    Actually, I can;t finish that picture.  Exactly what do you mean?  Do you mean someone can fill up a canister with methanol and do something bad, that they couldn’t do just by buying the methanol from Home Depot, or any hardware or auto supplies store?  I have a one gallon container of the stuff at home at all times.  Use it for thinning shellac for woodwork, cleaning anything before gluing, and running the alcohol stove in my camper, or fondue set.

    Every time you go to a banquet and see chafing trays being kept warm by little blue flame burners that is.. methanol.  Safe enough to be used for food preparation, yet somehow, according to some, not safe enough to be used as a fuel where you never have to touch, or even see, the liquid?  

    It’s time get real here.  So it’s toxic – then don’t drink it!  

    Ethylene glycol (anti freeze) is also quite toxic, and sweet tasting ( a French winery was caught adding this to wine to sweeten it!  They don’t exist anymore)

    I don’t recommend drinking industrial ethanol, or gasoline (carcinogenic) either.

    Since people keep bringing up this straw man, I’d be interested to see some data on how many people suffer from ingesting gasoline each year

    Many groundwater aquifers have been rendered undrinkable from gasoline contamination – that can’t happen with methanol.

    In a fire, it can be put out with water, instead of needing chemical retardants., and it is much harder to set on fire in the first place, let alone cause an explosion.  

    The fact is both methanol and (denatured) ethanol are toxic if ingested, both need different material handling from gasoline, and both are a better fuel.

    Digital cellphones are much better than analogue – thankfully, the fact that they were incompatible with analogue transmission towers did not stop us changing to them – switching to something better is called “progress”.  If new pipelines are needed, or existing ones are to be re-lined in situ, then so be it.  As someone on the Gulf Coast if they think we should keep looking for more oil rather than replacing/relining some pipelines.

    And a final note about the energy density.  The Sandeep Kumar said there is no upgrade in density from biomass, but this is just plain wrong.  The specific density of most wood is about 0.4 to 0.6 (oven dry), but you don;t get solid wood, you get chips or pellets, and the bulk specific density of those is about 0.3  Bales of straw or grass is about the same.  So by turing it into a liquid, you remove the airspace and increase the energy density substantially.  Now, the energy per unit mass of methanol and (dry) wood is about the same, but he was talking about density, which means volume, and there is a significant reduction in that, plus the handling advantages of a liquid fuel.  

    BUt it is less energy dense than gasoline, but so what?  You need a larger fuel tank, or you get reduced range on what you have.  I think, if it means a 10% reduction in fuel cost, most people will take it.


     

    [link]      
  160. By Walt on July 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I am looking for someone to help me write a bookklet on blending
    methanol and gasoline up to M15, M30 and M85 as well as what is
    generally required to modify existing vehicals to operate on these
    blended fuels.  I want this to be written in a technical manual format,
    and welcome anyone who would like to participate.  You can contact me
    through http://www.gastechno.com

    [link]      
  161. By Abis Igoni on July 25, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Methanol is toxic, every hydrocarbon produced has some level of toxicity, Crude Oil imported approx 4MMB/D is toxic, BP spill in the GoM has caused lost income to families, communities, cities and states and the environment, can anyone tell me in this forum which product that is 100% non toxic in the hydrocarbon/nonrenewable energy group., why the only Methanol that is been branded toxic.
    China have embrace the use of M85, M60 and have not had of any casualties in there daily use all-over china from Methanol
    Methanol is an Industrialization product among other uses, MTF, MTFertilizer l’m propagating the use of Methanol as against Ethanol in the West Africa Sub-region we need the Food, (Corn, Wheat) USA can afford to waste their corn or wheat to be converted to Ethanol, but in Africa and China just cannot afford it and it make no human, and economic sense of considering crushing food to be Converted to Ethanol, when we have abundance of Gas (C1, C2,..C7+) been flared from the Production Fields in Mmscf/d
    If you consider the economic (ROI, IRR, NPV) you will realize that Methane to Methanol is still a better investment in short and on the Long term bases.
    I’m a strong believer that the Gastechno process is the solution for GTM globally. Due to its economy of Scale. Thanks. Abis Igoni

    [link]      
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