DOHA: The first Middle East Methanol Forum (MEMF), organised by Qatar Fuel Additives Company Ltd (Qafac), effectively showcased the wide-ranging benefits of the use and application of methanol.
The Forum, whose key theme was “Miracle Energy on Hand (MeOH)”, held here yesterday was attended by 180 global industry executives and senior government officials participated.
Qafac Chairman Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi noted that the combined production capacity of over 90 methanol plants across the key regions is about 100 million metric tonnes. Each day more than 165,000 tonnes of methanol is used as chemical feedstock or as an energy carrier in transport fuel. According to the Methanol Institute (MI) methanol is currently the world’s second ranked chemical transported, with more than 80,000 tonnes shipped daily from one continent to another, he said.
The global demand for methanol in 2013 was 60.7m tonnes. The estimation for 2020 will be around 120m tonnes, driven in large part by the resurgence of the global housing market, increased demand for cleaner energy and the new technologies like methanol to olefins (MTO). It is estimated that the global methanol industry generates $36bn in economic activity every year, while creating over 100,000 jobs around the globe, he said
During one of the panel discussions on “Making the Case for Oxygenates in the GCC”, Chief Executive Officer of Salalah Methanol Company in Oman, Awadh Hassan Al Shanfari, pointed out that Oman is reviewing fuel blending standards and regulations in the country, considering methanol blending in petrol.
Chairman of Oorja Protonics Inc and General Partner at Focus Ventures, US, James Boettcher, noted in his presentation that methanol’s use in cooking and heating is especially important as a replacement for the indoor burning of wood, charcoal, coal, etc, which can cause serious health problems. He also presented how Oorja uses methanol to provide enough power to supplement or supplant diesel generator sets and batteries in target markets and applications.
“Direct methanol fuel cells contains non-explosive liquid that are user-friendly, easily transportable, and costs less for stationary or mobile storage,” Boettcher said.
“Thus, it can deliver better ROIs in logistics applications versus extra batteries, charging stations, and battery replacement. In addition, methanol fuel cells deliver lower TCO/LCOE (transparent conductive oxide and levelised cost of electricity) than diesel generator sets or H2 fuel cells in off-grid locations such as telecom base stations.
As far as the use of methanol as marine fuels is concerned, Project Manager for Methanol Adaptation at Wartsila Sweden, Toni Stojcevski, revealed that some of the conclusions derived from using methanol in the diesel process of marine engines include: engine output and efficiency is equal to diesel engine; significant reduction of NOx and particulate matter as compared to diesel; life span of major engine components will be similar or even better than the diesel engine; and that no change in oil change intervals are expected.
Al-Hitmi (left), Patrick (centre) and Dolan: China demand factor.
By Peter Alagos
Qatar’s methanol industry would continue to remain competitive even as low-priced natural gas from the US is attracting China to establish new methanol plants in North America, Methanol Institute (MI) CEO Gregory Dolan said yesterday.
“Certainly, we’ve seen some interests from Chinese enterprises on building methanol plants in the US for an export market back in China for MTO (methanol to olefins) production,” Dolan told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the inaugural Middle East Methanol Forum at the Sharq Village and Spa here.
But Dolan was quick to say that “There’s probably enough thirst for methanol in China whether it’s being sourced from the US, Qatar, or other GCC states and there’s probably enough demand to go around for everybody to be satisfied.”
This was reinforced by MI chairman Dennis Patrick, who said global markets, likewise, need additional supply for methanol despite China’s huge demand growth for the primary feedstock, which was derived from natural gas.
“China has a huge demand growth for methanol and I think the world needs additional supply. It’s just that there are new projects in the US because of the shale gas boom but the Gulf region continues to become a competitive source of supply globally. So, I don’t think that would affect the Gulf’s production of methanol,” Patrick said.
As a key component of hundreds of chemicals, methanol was used as a primary feedstock in the manufacture of thousands of common products. It was also used on its own in a number of applications such as transportation fuel, waste water denitrification, as hydrogen carrier in fuel cells, biodiesel transesterification, and electricity generation.
In his message, HE the Minister of Energy and Industry, Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-Sada noted that the global methanol market has seen a number of changes in the recent years.
“There has been explosive growth in demand and capacity in China, while forecasts say North America will be transformed from an importer to a net exporter,” the minister said.
According to Dolan, the MI was expecting to see US methanol production capacity to reach nearly 26mn tonnes by 2018 against its current chemical demand of about 7mn tonnes per year (tpy).
“So, clearly there’s a lot of methanol that would be looking for a market and a good bit of that would be going to China,” he said.
Similarly, he said MI was expecting the US to be self-sufficient by 2016 or 2017 and later as an exporter of methanol.
While North America is yet to export methanol, once new production plants become operational in the country, investors there will look at exporting the liquid alcohol to China, Patrick said.
He added, “But all those exports will meet a growing demand from China and that demand has to be met by other, non-US methanol producers, particularly those based in the GCC region.”
Khalid Mubarak Rashid al-Hitmi, chief operating officer for Qatar Fuel Additives Company (Qafac), said China ranks as the world’s largest consumer of methanol but, at the same time, was “pushing very hard” to develop methanol from its coal reserves.
“It doesn’t necessarily follow that they are only looking at the US as a methanol source. China imports methanol from everywhere,” he stressed.
Qafac, which hosted and organised the event, currently produces 1mn tpy of methanol and more than 600,000 tpy of MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether).
A majority of methanol Qafac produced is exported to markets within Asia, the Far East, and Europe and 20% is used internally in the production of MTBE.
Al-Hitmi said Qafac’s mission was to recover 500 tonnes per day of CO2 from its methanol reformer stack and inject it in its existing methanol plant to enhance production capacity.
“The amount of CO2 recovered in the plant was equivalent to CO2 absorbed by 4.2mn trees in 10 years or CO2 emitted by 32,000 vehicles per year,” he stressed.