In 2004, the worldwide demand for methanol stood at 32 million tonnes. Although virtually any hydrocarbon source (coal, petroleum, naphtha, coke, etc.) can be converted to methanol via derived syn-gas, methane from natural gas accounted for some 90% of the feedstock used for methanol manufacture. Most existing plants have production capacities ranging from 100 000 to 800 000 t per year. In the past, plants were generally constructed close to large methanol-consuming centers in the United States or Europe. However, with decreasing local reserves and increasing prices of natural gas in these areas, production has shifted to countries which still have large natural gas resources but lie far from centers of major consumption, such as Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia (Fig. 12.1). In the United States, for example, the annual methanol production capacity peaked at some 7.4 million tonnes in 1998, supplying 70% of the domestic requirements. In 2005, after the progressive phase-out of methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE, a reformulated gasoline additive), together with the closure of aging plants and high natural gas prices, the annual production capacity fell to only about 2 million tonnes, covering merely 20-25% of the United States domestic demand . Plans were also announced to close down altogether methanol production in North America. Not only the geographical location, but also the size of new methanol plants has changed. Facilities with capacities of 1 million tonnes per year or more - termed "mega methanol plants" - are becoming the norm. Two such mega methanol plants, each able to produce almost 1 million tonnes of methanol per year, are currently operating in Qatar and Saudi-Arabia . Methanex recently started up its 1.7 million tonnes per year Atlas plant in Trinidad and Tobago , and further plants are either planned or are already under construction in Qatar, Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Chile, Malaysia, and other countries. Designs for plants with capacities up to 3.5 million tonnes per year are now offered by major methanol technology developers (Syne-tix, Lurgi and Haldor-Topsoe). The economy of scale brought by the construction of ever larger and more efficient syn-gas-based plants is expected to lower considerably the cost of methanol production, and is starting to open up the market for methanol as an alternative fuel and petrochemical feedstock (Fig. 12.2). New methods for the direct oxidative conversion of existing natural gas (methane) sources to methanol without going through syn-gas, as well as the hydrogenative
Was this article helpful?
Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.