The Revolution of Green Methanol
With the ongoing climate crisis, alternative energy sources and fuels are becoming more and more important. Among them is green methanol. While the traditional production of methanol was based on fossil feedstock such as natural gas or coal, today, the most-produced chemical worldwide can be generated environmentally friendly, serving as a base material for a wide range of industries and products.
This is how methanol turned around from a CO2-heavy pollutant to a green solution with the potential for an environmentally friendly future.
Green methanol – the all-star for climate-neutral production
“Today, Methanol is one of the most-produced organic chemicals with about 110 million tons per year”, explains Thore Lohmann, Executive Director Fertilizer & Methanol at the Uhde business unit of thyssenkrupp. “It mainly serves the chemical industry as a base material for broad range of chemical products such as polymer fibers for the textile industry, plastics for packaging, glues, adsorbents/diapers, paints, adhesives, solvents and much more.” Methanol also serves as a fuel or fuel additive.
The conventional production method involves a catalytic process using fossil feedstock such as natural gas or coal. "Thanks to an increase in affordable renewable energy, methanol can be produced based on wind or solar power, geothermal energy or hydropower – which reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly,” explains Lohmann. This so-called “green methanol” is environmentally friendly and can be used as an energy carrier for storing electricity generated from renewable sources or as a transportation fuel. Besides LNG and ammonia, green methanol is also considered as a substitute fuel for maritime fuel applications. Additionally, it can be added to conventional liquid fuels or used to fuel 100% methanol-based drive systems.
Growing application of green methanol & ammonia
“This being said, green methanol has great potential to revolutionize many different areas of industries and turn previously grey processes into climate neutral ones.”, says Lohmann. With further diversifying the application of ammonia and methanol as an energy carrier, energy storage, or maritime fuel, the expert expects drastic market growth in coming years as the forecasts expect a tripling market volume of both green methanol and ammonia.
A key driver for this development and advantage of the two sustainable fuels is the already existing market and its already available infrastructure – built up for their grey, fossil-based siblings. Furthermore, the high energy density of both chemicals makes them beneficial in comparison to liquefied hydrogen, especially for long-distance transportation and long-term storage of renewable energy.
thyssenkrupp’s green methanol technology
To make the technology fit for the future and industrial-scale plants, thyssenkrupp employs its own Uhde Methanol technology. "In this process, hydrogen is produced by means of the highly efficient alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) process which is based on the proven chlor-alkali electrolysis technology developed by thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers," explains Thore Lohmann. The carbon dioxide is recovered from biogas or other fermentation plants, from all kinds of applications such as flue and waste gases from chemical and petrochemical complexes, cement plants, or steel manufacturing plants. By keeping and “recycling” this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, the production process can make yet another positive contribution to climate protection.
“In other words, this green methanol technology makes particular sense in countries where there is plenty of renewable power as well as a legal framework that further renewable energy and its conversion into chemicals”, says Thore Lohmann. Germany, like other European nations, actively promotes new sustainable technologies based on green hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia with government subsidies and the necessary policy frameworks. Learn more about Germany's national hydrogen strategy in our tk stories.