Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Sep 24, 2012 with 26 responses

The Potential of Methanol

Last week I received an email from John Bockris, a retired Distinguished Professor from Texas A&M University. I presume Professor Bockris had come across some of my writings on methanol, as that was the topic of his correspondence. I don’t think Professor Bockris realized that we had met when I was a first year chemistry graduate student at Texas A&M. At that time he was one of the most well-known professors in the chemistry department. (See also: Methanol versus Ethanol: Technical Merits and Political Favoritism)

I asked for permission to publish our correspondence, and permission was granted. My reply to him is in blue. Just one correction. He referred to me as Dr. Rapier. When I was halfway through my chemistry Ph.D. at Texas A&M, it had become clear to me that chemical engineering salaries were much higher. So I switched to the chemical engineering department and got my Master of Science degree. Thus, I am merely “Mr. Rapier”, or more preferably just “Robert.”

I include his contact information in case anyone wants to engage with him about methanol.

Dear Dr. Rapier,

I am writing to you in respect to the tar sands controversy and wanted to point out a couple of things which I think influence the debate.

The figures are such that the total tar sands would not last very long.  I read that the total tar sands which are projected to exist at this time is 276 billion barrels of oil.  The daily use by the world is 0.1 billion barrels.  So this supply from the tar sands would only last us around 2000-3000 days; therefore, they are hardly worth developing.  Of course this view is totally different from some other who paint the tar sands as though they were tremendously available.  I thought this at the beginning but after I looked up the facts, I concluded that there is not much tar sands oil to depend on.

To be impressed by tar sands, the supply would have to at least last us for 50 years to cover all the trouble that would be needed to process the oil from them.

At the moment, the thing I believe is necessary to be understood by you and other experts in the field of the future atmosphere is the scheme that I have been putting forward since 2008, partly with the help of George Olah who has written two books on The Methanol Economy.  He thinks, and to some extent I agree, that methanol is the ideal replacement for gasoline.  It is very like gasoline in its properties so that a change over need only minimal engineering.

Methanol can be made into a zero carbon fuel in a simple way.   The “trick” is to make it from CO2 that exists in the atmosphere.  Thus, in principal, one takes CO2 from the atmosphere (a big task but it can be solved, see below), and uses it in the synthesis of methanol.

The chemical equation is:  3H2 + CO2 –> CH3OH + H2O

Now one as the methanol and in it lie dormant CO2 which was taken from the atmosphere.  You then burn this methanol as a fuel and use the heat energy to run the world.  In doing so (burning and using the methanol made from CO2 from the atmosphere as a fuel), the CO2 is reintroduced into the atmosphere.  In this way, you can see that using this methanol is a zero carbon scheme; i.e. it has no increase or decrease in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. It will not lead to a lessening of the greenhouse effect (though there is a way of doing this) but it would stop the rapid growth.  Were it to be assumed the world over in the next 20-30 years, we should be saved from heat death.

This method is so simple and straightforward, it is really remarkable that it has not been grabbed.  I am surprised too that Olah’s books, though I don’t think they include the way of avoiding the greenhouse effect, are not taken more seriously as they present methanol as a fuel and give all the right information for a changeover.

Another socioeconomic aspect which should be put forward is that the elephant on the stage, if I may use that analogy, are the oil companies as a group.  Their financial power is so great that to go against their will may be impossible unless it is a national revolution by an army.  The owners of the present oil reserves would like to keep selling for a long time and thus incurring heat death in various parts of the world.  I think this is immoral and we should go to great lengths to stop it.  The solution is easy:  use methanol made from CO2 in the atmosphere.

John Bockris
(Retired) Distinguished Professor, Texas A&M University (1978-1997)
Phone: (352) 335-3843 or 6578
Fax:  (352) 335-6925

My reply:

Hello Professor Bockris,

We actually met when I was a chemistry graduate student at Texas A&M in the early 1990′s. I was in Ron Macfarlane’s group for 2 years before I switched to chemical engineering and got my MS under Mark Holtzapple.

I agree that the tar sands reserves in Canada are not all that large. I have made this point with respect to the climate change debate. The tar sands won’t contribute enough to matter much compared to other sources such as China’s coal consumption.

As far as methanol, I am very enthusiastic about methanol possibilities. I have written a number of columns on that (I am guessing you found me as a result of one of those columns) and I promoted methanol in my book Power Plays: Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil. What methanol lacks is enough political support. If it had the political support of corn ethanol, methanol could have already made an enormous contribution to U.S. energy supplies.

I am aware of that route for making methanol, and of Olah’s books, but I am wondering whether anyone has even constructed a pilot facility for producing methanol from CO2? I would expect that the low concentrations in the atmosphere would be a problem, and really what you would want to do is capture the emissions from a fossil-fuel power plant.

Cheers, Robert Rapier

Here is his reply back to me:


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Robert Rapier:

Dear Dr. Rapier:

Thank you for your letter of September the 11th.  I’d just like to add about methanol as a fuel.  I’m fully in favor of it.  In fact I wrote an article about it in 1975 and included it in one of my books in 1980.  In both those cases I mentioned the possibility of the large scale used but in the end I preferred hydrogen because at that time I was not convinced that the cost of it including the storage at high pressure and the reconversion to electricity would be too much.

There is one point about methanol that adds to what Olah and his very helpful and excellent books he has written.  It depends on how you make the methanol and if the hydrogen  you use comes from electrolysis only and the electricity used for the electrolysis of a renewable, then of course your hydrogen is both clean and also helpful for the furthering development of methanol.  Then we’re going to use the direct method for methanol hydrogen conversion and there are plenty of papers on that in the United States now although until about 2000 there was mainly a reaction investigated in Japan and needs a catalyst.

There is one extra thing one has to be careful thing and that is from where one gets the CO2.  It has to be in a stream so it would be very difficult to get it from the atmosphere directly, but of course  CO2 from the atmosphere is trapped in all sorts of ways in the atmosphere and in a general way is represented by the biomass formation equation:

H2OAt + CO2At –>CH2OAt + O2

There are very large resources of this kind in nature in all kinds of ways and I feel that one would develop, according to what was available in the environment taking these materials and making them into something suitable for transport to the gas stations where  the CO2 containing bricks would be burned to produce CO2.  Of course there might be some purification process on the way here because burning the biomass bricks is not going to produce pure CO2.

The pure CO2 (underneath the gas station) would then be combined with the  hydrogen from electrolysis.

Now, comes the good part.  The CO2 you use here comes really from the atmosphere.  So when you burn the methanol which has the CO2 in it, you’ve taken a molecule of CO2 from the atmosphere and by burning it in the fuel, put it back again.  There’s no net use up of CO2 and no global warming!

You’re quite right in hinting that the major problem here is the political side and I’m sure that’s much more for you to suggest than me.  I’m a physical chemist and I’ve never been a politician, but I guess finally we may be able to get it in people’s minds that they do face dangerous global warming within ten years if we continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.  Indeed in places like Saudi Arabia and Iraq they have dangerous temperatures, e.g., 123°F and this will come much sooner than ten years from now in the summer.

If I can do anything to help you in anything to do with methanol and Professor Olah, I stand at your service.

Good wishes.


John O’M. Bockris

Retired Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry, Texas A&M University, 1978 to 1997; Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, 1953 to 1972.

Link to Original Article: The Potential of Methanol

By Robert Rapier

  1. By Michael Pawluk on September 24, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Interesting exchange, but a little confusing though.  The professor didn’t seem to be addressing the questions you brought up, i.e., has a pilot facility been constructed that produces methanol from CO2, and wouldn’t it be better to capture CO2 emissions directly from fossil fuel plants since there are such low concentrations of it in the atmosphere?  


  2. By David L. Hagen on September 24, 2012 at 9:40 am


    You can find further evaluation for the potential of the potential for synthesizing methanol from renewable resources in my detailed review:

    Hagen, D. L., “Methanol: Its Synthesis, Use as a Fuel, Economics and Hazards.” Univ. Minnesota, December 1976, 180 pp., 608 Ref., NTIS Publication No. NP-21727 (NTIS best seller for 3 years)

    Note the amazingly rapid pragmatic construction of coal to methanol plants in China driven by commercial profitability:

    China’s growing methanol economy and its implications for energy and the environment, Chi-Jen Yang, Robert B. Jackson, Energy Policy 41 (2012) 878–884

    “How seriously the government will in fact pursue the methanol cap is unclear. Even if the cap is successful, at full capacity the coal-based methanol industry would be still able to substitute more than half of China’s gasoline supply by 2015.”

    “Roughly 1.4 t of methanol can replace one ton of gasoline (Li, 2008). Because methanol is usually priced at one third to one quarter the price of gasoline (Table 1), blending methanol in gasoline in China is currently profitable, even if illegal in some places.”

  3. By David L. Hagen on September 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Re CO2 + H2 to Methanol pilot plant

    Mitsui Chemical was building a pilot plant to demonstrate this.

    e.g., See A New Leading Process For CO2 to Methanol August 29, 2008.

  4. By David L. Hagen on September 24, 2012 at 10:50 am

    For commercial CO2+H2 to MeOH from geothermal energy, see Carbon Recycling International in Iceland

    “First Commercial Plant
    The George Olah Renewable Methanol Plant has a production capacity of 5 million liters per year. Its purpose is to improve plant economics for building larger plants and to gain operating experience, which includes validation of distribution channels and logistics of Renewable Methanol in Iceland and the EU. Operation of the plant began in Q4 2011 at Svartsengi.”

    “CRI plans to construct a larger plant in Iceland that will produce up to 50 million liters of RM per year for export to other European countries.”

  5. By CarbonBridge on September 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    RR:  Good timing to revisit GTL MeOH opportunities and some consumer awareness once again before an election.  What is currently happening in China with methanol/gasoline blending is NOT even understood by the Chinese motorist living in Shanghai let alone by Congress over here in the USA.  During this calendar year, I’ve personally interviewed Chinese consumers who reported that they had zero consumer information that a C1 basic alcohol was being integrated into the petroleum infrastructure in the smoggiest of big Chinese cities.  Same Chinese people informed me that gasoline there was being sold earlier this year for approx. $8 per gallon.  They considered $4 U.S. fuel to be a bargain…

    Last:  I support Dr. Olah’s ideas for marrying CO2 and renewable H2 to form CH3OH.  What I don’t understand is how he would profitably collect commercial CO2 volumes from the atmosphere.  Siphoning CO2 from coal-fired smokestacks is doable and expensive, yet it can be readily accomplished with amine systems.  However, there needs to be a direct and profitable usage for these tonnages of CO2 sequestered from industrial smokestacks.  Anybody seriously looking in this direction is looking in the right direction.  However, talk of money remains cheap.

  6. By Terry on September 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    It seems like the proposed route to methanol product always involves CO2.  But where will we be getting this CO2 from?  From the professor’s correspondence it sounds like it needs to be a concentrated stream.  Many of the linked articles talks about capturing it from industrial processes which seem to be fueled by fossil fuels.  So I don’t see how one can call this process renewable.  The only way to keep it renewable would be to burn/consume biomass.  But if we’re going to consume/burn biomass, why not just keep going and make a F-T fuel instead of methanol?  I would dare say that F-T fuels would be more adaptable to today’s liquid fuel infrastructure than methanol.

    Is there any serious work being done on finding a way to produce methanol from atmospheric CO2?  Or is the thermodynamics of extracting the CO2 just too costly to attempt this?

    • By David L. Hagen on September 25, 2012 at 8:37 am


      The Carbon Capture Journal reports CO2 capture methods.

      One vision for CO2 capture from air is by David Keith et al. at Carbon Engineering.

      While FT fits existing cars easier, I expect methanol will be the most efficient and cheapest route. CO2 is doable. Cost effective sustainable hydrogen is the primary need.


      • By carbonbridge on September 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

        David:  The Carbon Engineering site/URL you posted above is appreciated.  I’ve not witnessed anything quite like this before.  Sequestering CO2 from atmospheric air seems a far larger task than siphoning the greenhouse gas directly from smokestack concentrations.  Although the short vid at this firm’s home page site talks about CO2 emissions from cars, trucks, airplanes, etc., which is its present target.  They also depict CO2 and H2O being merged as CO & H2 Syngas via steam reformation for F-T GTL production front-ends.

        Thank you.

  7. By notKit P on September 25, 2012 at 10:18 am

    There is no consumer acceptance of either methanol or natural gas for transportation in the US. Coming from a practical school of engineering, do not design something that no on wants.


    On a social level the two most amusing groups are from Texas and California. A few in California do not understand the lack of interest in solar and surfing for those folks in Indiana who are ‘addicted’ to corn and basketball. While the potential for solar is such that California could supply the rest of the country with electricity, consumers in California get very small amounts from solar and large from importing.


    Texans love to brag about the great state if Texas as they should. I frequently point to the leadership in Texas on energy issues. It is when people from Texas start explaining why other should not develop resources that they have, that I say just a second here. Where is your leadership on methanol?

    • By Robert Rapier on September 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      There is no consumer acceptance of either methanol or natural gas for transportation in the US. Coming from a practical school of engineering, do not design something that no on wants.

      Yet you were always a fan of our ethanol policies. There was no consumer acceptance of that either. This is why it had to be mandated by the RFS, which you have thought was just fine. You have a double standard.


  8. By Lew Schuerkamp on September 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    While making Methanol from the CO2 already existing in the air is an intriguing idea, both authors are turning a blind eye to the FACT that Ethanol and Methanol are inferior fuels compared to gasoline and particularly CNG. 

    All alcohols are hydroscopic.  The will dilute themselves in storage to the point no internal combustion engine will run on them. 

    All alcohols are corrosive.  While actions could be taken to mitigate this they would be costly and on-going. 

    Alcohols have roughly 2/3 the energy per given quantity so to replace gasoline with either version would require much greater quantities produced.

    Either form of alcohol would be better than no fuel at all but I would not promote that as an argument in their favor since we are on the precipice of a CNG boom.  Current and future vehicles can easily be converted to run on CNG.  Providing the infrastructure would create multiple hundreds of thousands of jobs if not more.  CNG fueled vehicles produce generally 90% less smog producing gasses including CO2.   Until Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are ready for mass production/use, the clear bridge to the future is CNG.

    • By carbonbridge on September 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      EtOH and MeOH are both inferior fuels?  Why?  Simply because both feature less BTU’s yet exhibit far greater octane while being biodegradable too?

      The Oxygen atom which converts float-on-water hydrocarbon oils into water soluble, oil soluble, coal soluble fuel alcohols doesn’t contribute any BTU’s.  Yet this same Oxygen atom ‘fans the flames’ getting all or nearly all of the complex hydrocarbon elements (like cancer-causing benzene) in gasoline, jet fuel and diesel to fully combust.  Same missing Oxygen atom is what creates a polarity shift  — causing the alcohols to dilute into water, thus feed micro-organisms, green plants and trees with a free lunch when accidently spilled and thus easily BIODEGRADE.  Even bio-oils like biodiesel or algae oils don’t easily biodegrade and float-on-water just as crude oil does.  And we understand some of those consequences with oil spilled into water bodies…

      Yes, anhydrous (dry) alcohols are hydroscopic and attempt to dilute themselves with water vapor from the air.  Yet just how long do you think it would take to dilute these fuel alcohols to the point where they were worthless?  I’ve stored anhydrous fuel alcohols in large tanks in sweaty, humid, summer conditions which took on about 1.25% water during a 10-month period of time.  By simply layering a cheap nitrogen blanket over the head space in storage tanks like this – you effectively block water moisture from coming into contact with anhydrous, dry alcohols.  You could effectively store fuel alcohols in big tanks with lots of head space using a nitrogen blanket for 30 years quite easily. 

      The same Oxygen atom in alcohols (which petroleum-derived hydrocarbon fuels are lacking) will act as an oxidizer and will corrode metals or elastomers greater than oils themselves will.  Yet this has been widely solved since the early 1980′s when gasohol was first introduced into the mainstream by engine manufacturers.  Please don’t blow something out of proportion here which isn’t an issue.  Same fuel alcohols scrub the accumulated gum and varnish buildup from engine fuel systems layered down by hydrocarbon petroleum-based fuels.  This is known as ‘decarbonization’ and improves engine performance and life while creating a less toxic emission profile as well.

      C2 EtOH features roughly 2/3′s of the BTU’s as does gasoline.  C1 MeOH provides roughly 1/2 of the BTU’s of gasoline.  A C1-C10 blend of higher mixed alcohols features approximately 82% of the BTU value of gasoline and 30 more octane points than either C1 or C2 alcohols.  When looking at BTU value-only, yes – a motorist will achieve less miles per gallon combusting alcohols instead of gasoline.  Yet when the same engine is adjusted for correct air/fuel ratio and advanced spark ignition, (such as using a $35 FFV chip manufactured for the past 30 years) then the same engine’s mileage will become much more equal while the engine performs more like a race car’s engine – and a biodegradable exhaust emission is emitted instead.

      Please go back and read other methanol blogs which RR has featured on this same site dating back several years.  I suspect that you’ll learn something useful.

    • By Robert Rapier on September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Ethanol and Methanol are inferior fuels compared to gasoline and particularly CNG. 

      But we could also argue that CNG is inferior compared to gasoline. The fact is, there are no perfect fuels.


  9. By JavelinaTex on September 26, 2012 at 8:21 am

    With all due respect to the Professor, I am reminded why people in academe are often viewed as impractical individuals.

    The professor lost me very early with the Sierra Club style canard that Canadian Oil Sands won’t make a difference because they only amount to 2000 to 3000 days (5 to 8 years, roughly).  By that logic we should never drill another oil well because it will never make a difference.  The reality is that most projections talk of a max production in the 5 to 10 Million Barrel per day range at which it would represent a 50 to 100 year supply.  Further, these are not the only Oil Sands in the world. 

    Next, he embraced the most extreme views of Global Warming. If our situation is that dire, we really should be breaking ground on the maximum number of nuclear plants we can build each year (I believe the world supply chain capacity is in the teens; of course it could be expanded).  Heck, maybe we should just party because we are already toast and there is nothing to be done.

    Third, as nearly everyone has pointed out, the atmosphere is the last place you’d go to find CO2, so many concentrated flue gas streams are available and will not be going away in the time frames we are discussing.

    I do recall about four years ago, I think it was the Livermore Lab (or Sandia, one of the Federal Labs) did a study of the building a nuke plant and combining the idea of recovering CO2 from the atmosphere; high temperature electrolysis to make Hydrogen and the synthesis of Methanol and alkane fuels.  Methanol as most are aware is a pathway to gasoline and olefins.

     To me all of this is bat crazy…  like talking about manned missons to other solar systems or even Mars when we can’t even get back to the moon.

    Yes, you can blend Methanol into gasoline, but there are a whole host of supply chain issues.  And Methanol, unlike Ethanol is far more toxic (it will blind you and kill you much faster)

    If the premise of global warming is that dire, and the investments are to be made in renewables, nukes, etc. The real benefits would seem as follows:  We’ve got to focus on battery electric vehicles; fuel cell vehicles are also a very logical step (and what seems to have been missed in the the Toyota announcement on not going commercial with the iQ EV electric is that Toyota is making progress on fuel cell vehicles).  Methanol may have a role in fuel cell vehicles; however, overall, I would surmise one would be better off taking hydrogen straight to a fuel cell (even with all the handling issues) rather than converting to methanol for a feed.

    I also agree with the others on this board that we have to look at the overall thermodynamics of all of the options.  I think LNG & CNG will result in better overall conversion in primary source btus to mechanical energy than going through the methanol or GTL (FT) pathways.  Also, even electric vehicles will provide a superior conversion rate of natural gas to motion than all of these other pathways.

    At the end of they day, we really do need expanded access to Canadian Oil sands.  There are a lot of exciting prospects for use of natural gas as a motor fuel (and I believe it will be as LNG primarily with some CNG). And the Electric vehicle option will be developed and Fuel Cells may yet wind up being a viable long term option.

    One thing is certain, we live in exciting times! There are a lot of neat ideas out there that a few just may come to fruition (hey they cracked the code on tight gas and oil – pun intended).  What we need to avoided as humans is listening to the nattering nabobs of negativism.

    • By bill pritchard on October 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      This is a bit off-topic, but since oil sands keep coming up in the discussion, can somebody tell me why it is desirable to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from Canada to Texas rather than a refinery on the site of the oil sands to process the oil into refined products ?   Anybody ?

      • By robert on October 15, 2012 at 8:13 pm

        It’s desireable from the point of view of the Canadians to be able to transport their oil to a port and from there on  to the world market.  They don’t want to be beholden to a small number a refineries they can reach and building one more doesn’t really change that.

  10. By notKit P on September 26, 2012 at 9:31 am


    “You have a double standard. ”


    Not at all. I do have standards. Many times I have advocated for incentives like small mandates, grants, and PTC to test the market. Looking at first generations of wind farms, there many complaints. This generation of wind farms has widespread acceptance but you are still hearing complaints based on the first generation.


    My standard is to try lots of things but evaluate how well it works. Do not get mad at me if CNG or methanol are not accepted, blame those who do a poor job promoting it.

    • By Robert Rapier on September 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

      My standard is to try lots of things but evaluate how well it works. Do not get mad at me if CNG or methanol are not accepted, blame those who do a poor job promoting it.

      That’s the point. We evaluated ethanol for 30 years and consumers accepted it in very small numbers. We had to have government intervention to get acceptance on a larger level. You favored that. You don’t favor intervention to get greater acceptance of methanol. That is a double-standard.


  11. By notKit P on September 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

    The nuke industry can build nuke plants as fast as we can sell them. I do not think that AGW sold the first nuke plant where the coal or NG was cheaply available. When the people who supply power to their customers decide a nuke is the best choice, there is a chorus of ‘pick me, pick me’ from France, the US, Japan, Russia, Canada, and South Korea.  Supply exceeds demand for new nuke plants. 


    The problem with supplying energy is not picking the best choice. It is sorting through all the good choices for where you happen to live. However, what might make an interesting choice for a college professor teaching the basic principles to engineering students; may be totally impractical relative to all the good choices.

  12. By mac on September 26, 2012 at 10:18 am

    From Seawater to CO2

    Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.

    “The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence,” says research chemist, Dr. Heather Willauer.

    NRL has successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of CO2 and the production of H2 from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons (organic compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon) that can be used to produce jet fuel.

    “The reduction and hydrogenation of CO2 to form hydrocarbons is accomplished using a catalyst that is similar to those used for Fischer-Tropsch reduction and hydrogenation of carbon monoxide,” adds Willauer. “By modifying the surface composition of iron catalysts in fixed-bed reactors, NRL has successfully improved CO2 conversion efficiencies up to 60 percent.”

  13. By mac on October 5, 2012 at 4:45 am

    There is the Right Way, and then the WRONG WAY,  and then there is the U.S Navy which is exploring CO2 from seawater at NREL.

    Significantly more dissolved CO2 in sea water than is in the atmosphere.

    Oh well…………………………….

  14. By mac on October 5, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Let’s dig up some more expensive synthetic fuels to power the inefficient internal combustion engine.

    That makes good sense, or maybe non-sense, depending on your point of view.

  15. By mac on October 5, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Yup, we can make oil from coal at appx. $ 185.00 a bbl equivalent.

    Yup, yup, yup………………. You win……….

    Anybody home upstairs ???

  16. By mac on October 5, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Don’t you understand,  mac ???  Oil is the lifeblood of the world economy…..yada, yada, yada

    Mac, you need to get on board with the oil program,  and the even more expensive synthetic oil substitutes……………… and the vastly inefficient ICE.

    I must sincerely confess that  I do NOT understand and I am NOT on board….

    The ICE is doomed………………it’s just a matter of time.

    Every dog has his day…. and the ICE has had its day in the sun.



  17. By Optimist on October 5, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Where is all the H2 going to come from? Solar produced electricity via electrolysis? How much H2 can you produce per m2 per year near existing refinery infrastructure? The professor seems a bit too theoretical.

    A more sensible approach would be to convert a waste product, such as waste paper to syngas and the syngas to methanol. Biodegradable. Renewable. Carbon neutral. No shortage of feedstock, at least initially…

  18. By Robert Rapier on October 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Dr. Bockris sent me replies to several of the comments above. Hopefully this pastes OK:

    My suggestion of 2008 is that with Methanol “from the atmosphere” you have a fuel which gives NO GLOBAL WARMING and you can use it forevermore.  It’s totally clean.  No digging.   No imports from Canada. You make it by the reaction 3H2 + CO→ CH3OH +H2O.

    When you burn this methanol, it produces CO2 but the atmosphere remains the same as it was before you started, i.e., no increase in global warming.

    Pilot plants.  This is a reply to David Hagen.  Making methanol by combining hydrogen with CO2 was started with the Japanese in the late nineties, but there’s plenty of it around the world now and with pilot plants.   The Chinese have taken it up en mass, Denmark, Switzerland.  It’s spreading.
    Point 2.   Dr. Terry.  How to get the COfrom the atmosphere?  Any carbonaceous material made in air will give CO2 back on burning and of course this is CO2 from the atmosphere.  You just have to collect some biomass and heat it.  There’s a general reaction:

    H2OAt + CO2At –>CH2OAt + O2

    Getting the COfrom exhaust pipes from cars is an idea cherished by my colleague Sol Zaromb.  I’ve been cautious about this one because if you read where oil came from it was first created deep in the earth under high pressure and I don’t think that it counts as “being from the atmosphere” but I’ve relaxed my attitude and if you want to use exhaust pipes and you think that that it’s relevant to the atmospheric CO2 go ahead but remember that whether it will lead to zero global warming, I wouldn’t say.

    Acceptance by the public. NOTKIT P.  The public hasn’t shown any enthusiasm for methanol or ethanol.  I’m not talking about methanol that I suggested in 1975.  I’m talking about methanol from the atmosphere.  Make methanol from hydrogen via electrolysis of water and get CO2 from biomass, combine them, and you have the material I’m talking about.  The great point about it is NO GLOBAL WARMING.

    Would liquid methanol upset the production of hydrogen driven cars?  I understand that hydrogen driven cars are on the way and I certainly don’t want to interfere with that because I’ve long advocated it.  But then when you offer the public a gas and then you tell them that the alternative is methanol which looks exactly like gasoline and is a liquid, which do you think they would prefer?

    A perfect fuel.  Javolinetex.   Frankly, I believe that methanol from the atmosphere is the perfect fuel.  It’s easier to change to than nuclear.  What else is there?  Coal??!

    Hope this helps.


    John O’M. Bockris
    Retired Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry, Texas A&M University 1978 to 1997
    Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, 1953 to 1972.


Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!