Today, the leading company in making methanol from carbon dioxide is the Icelandic company Carbon Recycling International. In 2015, Geely invested in CRI and cooperated to build the world’s largest CO2– Fuel factory in China.When it operates, it can recover 160,000 tons of carbon dioxide2 Annual emissions from steel mills.
The potential for cleaner production makes methanol an ideal fuel.Not only is it a more efficient way to use energy, it’s also a way to remove existing carbon dioxide2 from the air. As China has promised to be carbon neutral by 2060, China cannot put all its eggs in one basket like electric cars. The popularization of methanol fuel and the clean production of methanol can enable China to achieve its goals as soon as possible.
Can methanol rise above its dirty roots?
But the future is not all smooth sailing. At present, most of the methanol in my country is still produced by burning coal. In fact, China’s lack of ability to power cars with coal instead of oil is the main reason the country is pursuing methanol in the first place. Today, the first province in China to carry out methanol vehicle trials is also a province rich in coal resources.
But as Bromberg said, unlike natural gas and diesel, at least methanol has Potential is green. Today, the production of methanol may still have a high carbon footprint, just as most electric vehicles in China are still powered by coal. But there is a path to transition from coal-produced methanol to renewable energy-produced methanol.
“If that’s not an intention — if people aren’t going to go after low-carbon methanol — you really don’t want to use methanol at all,” Bromberg said.
Methanol fuel has other potential drawbacks. It has a lower energy density than gasoline or diesel and requires a larger, heavier fuel tank – otherwise drivers may need to refuel more frequently. This also effectively prevents methanol from being used as jet fuel.
What’s more, methanol is highly toxic when ingested, and moderately toxic when people inhale it or come into contact with it in large quantities. Potential harm was a big concern in the pilot program, although the researchers concluded that methanol was no more toxic to participants than the gas.
Besides China, some other countries such as Germany and Denmark are also exploring the potential of methanol fuel. Still, China is at least one step ahead of the rest – even if it will replicate its success in developing electric vehicles, or follow the path of another country with a major auto industry, the big question remains.
In 1982, California subsidized automakers to produce more than 900 methanol vehicles in a pilot program. The Reagan administration even pushed the Alternative Motor Fuels Act to promote the use of methanol. But further research into methanol fuel has been hampered by a lack of publicity and falling gasoline prices, with pilots generally satisfied with the performance of their cars but complaining about the availability of methanol fuel and the reduced range compared to gasoline vehicles. California officially stopped using methanol in cars in 2005, and there have been no such trials in the United States since then.