“Methanol as a low carbon, hydrogen carrier fuel” produced from high ash coal, agricultural residue, CO2 from thermal power plants and natural gas is the best pathway for meeting India’s commitment to COP 21. Methanol Economy program initiated by NITI Aayog is aimed at reducing our oil import bill; reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions & converting Indian coal reserves and municipal solid waste into methanol leading to independence from import while creating new jobs by setting up Methanol Production Plants.
Methanol, although slightly lower in energy content than petrol and diesel, can replace both petrol and diesel in transport sector (road, rail and marine), energy sector (comprising of DG sets, boilers, process heating modules, tractors and commercial vehicles) and retail cooking replacing LPG (partially), Kerosene and wood charcoal. Blending of 15% methanol in gasoline can result in at least 15% reduction in import of gasoline/ crude. In addition, it would bring down GHG emissions by 20% in terms of particulate matter, NOx, and SOx thereby improving urban air quality.
Methanol Economy will result in minimum 15% of reduction in fuel bill annually for the country by 2030 and it will also create close to 5 million jobs through methanol production/ application and distribution services. Additionally, Rs. 6000 Crore can be saved annually by blending of 20% DME (Di-methyl Ether – a derivative of methanol) in LPG. To the consumer, it will result in saving of minimum Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per cylinder.
Bureau of Indian Standards has notified 20% DME blending with LPG and notification for M-15, M-85, M-100 blends has been issued by Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways. Test Standards / Test Plans for M-15 blend and testing are being evolved in consultation with Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Automotive Research Association of India and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. In railways sector, RDSO is working towards blending of methanol in the range of 5-20% through direct fuel injection in locomotives.
On 5th October, 2018 Assam Petro-chemicals has launched Asia’s first canisters based methanol cooking fuel program. The program is an extension of our Hon’ble Prime Ministers vision of reducing import of crude and an effort to provide clean, cost effective and pollution free cooking medium. Methanol cook stoves can result in a minimum of 20% savings for households in comparison to LPG. After huge success at pilot scale the methanol cooking program is being scaled up to 1,00,000 households by next year in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Manipur.
Under Indian Methanol Economy program 5 methanol plants based on high ash coal, 5 DME plants and 1 natural gas based methanol production plant with a total production of 20 MMT/ annum in joint venture with Israel, are planned to be set up. 3 boats and 7 cargo vessels are being built by Cochin Shipyard Limited for Inland Waterways Authority of India to use Methanol as a marine fuel for inland waterways program.
Thermax Ltd. has successfully developed a 5 KW methanol based reformer on a Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC). This module is being tested to replace DG sets in mobile towers. For direct electricity generation, Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd. has converted a 5 KW generator set to run on 100% methanol and demonstrated successfully. Kirloskar is working towards converting generator sets of 150 - 300 KVA/KW capacity in collaboration with Dor Chemicals, Israel.
As a part of R & D program, work is in progress to set up coal to methanol plants in the country using the indigenous technology which are currently being demonstrated at BHEL (Hyderabad), Thermax, BHEL (Trichy) and IIT Delhi. Thermax with IIT Delhi is working on 1 TPD demonstration plant while BHEL (Hyderabad) & BHEL (Trichy) are working on 1 TPD and 40 TPD demonstration plants respectively.
R & D project have been sanctioned by Department of Biotechnology for production of Methanol from biomass to IISc Bengaluru and Praj Industries Pune. Phase I of the demonstration of production of syngas from biomass will be demonstrated in January 2019.