Methanol to Gasoline: A Novel Technology Challenged by Low Oil Prices

Originally published 27 August 2015 on IHS Engineering360.

Providing an alternative route for crude-oil-based gasoline, methanol-to-gasoline processes can produce gasoline via methanol using coal, natural gas or biomass feedstocks. This technology is of importance in regions with large quantities of low-priced coal or natural gas.

Global methanol demand has increased significantly in recent years, according to a November 2014 special report from IHS Chemicals that dealt with methanol-into-fuels applications. In a span of 15 years (2009-2024), IHS Chemical forecasts that the total methanol capacity will have more than doubled from 70 to 160 million metric tons. Similarly, demand for methanol is expected to reach 110 million metric tons in 2024.

Today, three processes exist that directly use methanol as a feedstock or intermediate for fuel production: ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG), Haldor Topsoe’s improved gasoline synthesis (TIGAS) and Primus Green Energy’s syngas-to-gasoline-plus (STG+).

Gasoline produced via these processes can be directly used in transportation vehicles as a drop-in fuel, or blended with gasoline product from refineries.

“Currently, most synthetic gasoline is probably produced in China based on methanol which uses coal as feedstock,” says Henrik Udesen, business development manager (TIGAS) at Haldor Topsoe. Even with today’s lower oil prices, interest remains in converting natural gas into gasoline, especially in locations where gas may be difficult to transport or where there is no local refinery to produce gasoline.

“There is a relatively direct correlation between crude and gasoline,” says Olivier Maronneaud, senior research analyst at IHS Chemical. “The spread between crude and natural gas, crude and methanol or crude to coal will have a direct impact on the economics for these methanol-based technologies and their development.”

Read more at
IHS Engineering360, August 2015.

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