BHEL demonstrates tech to create methanol from high ash coal

What is the news?

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited(BHEL) has successfully demonstrated a facility to create methanol from high ash Indian coal. 

About Methanol

Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that can replace both petrol & diesel in transportation & LPG, Wood, Kerosene in cooking fuel. It can also replace diesel in Railways and could be an ideal complement to Hybrid and Electric Mobility.

Methanol can also be used to generate di-methyl ether (DME), a liquid fuel that is very similar to diesel — existing diesel engines simply need to be minimally changed to use DME instead of diesel. 

What are the benefits of using Methanol?

Methanol burns efficiently in all internal combustion engines, produces no particulate matter, no soot, almost nil SOX and NOX emissions (NEAR ZERO POLLUTION).

To adopt Methanol as a transport fuel requires minimal infrastructure modifications and capital both in vehicles and in terminal and distribution infrastructure. 

Methanol 15% blend (M15) in petrol will reduce pollution by 33% & diesel replacement by methanol will reduce by more than 80%.

How Methanol is produced?

Methanol can be produced from a variety of feedstocks like Natural Gas, Coal (Indian High Ash Coal), Biomass, Municipal Solid waste and most importantly from CO2.

The majority of worldwide methanol production is derived from natural gas, which is a relatively easy process.

Challenges associated with methanol production in India

India doesn’t have much of natural gas reserves. Hence, producing methanol from imported natural gas leads to outflow of foreign exchange and is sometimes uneconomical due to excessive prices of natural gas. 

The next best option is to utilise India’s abundant coal. However, due to the high ash percentage of Indian coal, most internationally accessible technology will not be adequate for our demands.

India’s Initiatives to increase Methanol Production

NITI Aayog’s ‘Methanol Economy’ programme is aimed at reducing India’s oil import bill, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and converting coal reserves and municipal solid waste into methanol.

The Bureau of Indian Standards has notified 20% of DME blending with LPG, and a notification for other blends has been issued. 

Railways is working towards blending methanol in the range of 5-2% through direct fuel injection in locomotives. 

In 2018, Assam Petrochemicals launched Asia’s first canister-based methanol cooking fuel programme.

Five methanol plants based on high ash coal, five DME plants, and one natural gas-based methanol production plant with a capacity of 20 MMT/annum in a joint venture with Israel, have been planned.

Source: This post is based on the article BHEL demonstrates tech to create methanol from high ash coalpublished in PIB on 9th September 2021.

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