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Methanol is a key raw material for many major industries. These include the chemical, construction and plastics industries. The big problem is that the conventional production process is not particularly green. At thyssenkrupp we are pleased to offer an environment-friendly alternative. By synthesizing renewable methanol from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, we can significantly reduce greenhouse emissions and thus help to tackle climate change.
Our renewable methanol is environmentally sound. This is underlined particularly by the fact that we can use it as an energy storage medium and transport fuel. Methanol can be added to conventional liquid fuels or used to fuel 100% methanol-based drive trains. The methanol-reforming technology developed by thyssenkrupp Marine Systems produces the hydrogen required for the unique HDW Fuel Cell System that powers non-nuclear submarines. Leading shipping companies are also investigating the use of methanol as fuel in conventional combustion engines as well as in methanol-powered fuel cells. The main advantage of methanol is that existing infrastructure for liquid fuels can be used directly or modified easily and at low cost.
Methanol, an organic compound belonging to the alcohols family, is one of the most largely produced organic chemicals in the world. In 2015, methanol demand rose to 75 million metric tons, while global production capacity is about 110 million metric tons (www.methanol.org/the-methanol-industry).
In the chemical industry methanol is mainly used as a raw material in the production of formaldehyde, olefins, acetic acid, MTBE, DME or biodiesel. Therefore, renewable methanol is a prerequisite for making a wide range of chemical products green, such as polymer fibers for the textile industry, plastics for packaging, glues, adsorbents/diapers, paints, adhesives and solvents to name but a few. Besides its use in the chemical, construction and plastics industries, methanol also serves as a fuel or fuel additive. Conventional production involves a catalytic process using a fossil feedstock such as natural gas or coal. With demand rising, there is growing interest in a more environment-friendly alternative to conventional technology.
The technology for synthesizing renewable methanol from hydrogen and carbon dioxide in small-scale plants was developed in an exclusive partnership between thyssenkrupp and Swiss Liquid Future AG (SLF). For industrial-scale plants, thyssenkrupp employs its proprietary Uhde methanol technology. The hydrogen for this is produced by means of our proprietary and highly efficient alkaline water electrolysis (AWE) process which is based on the proven chlor-alkali electrode technology developed by thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers. The carbon dioxide is recovered from either biogas or other fermentation plants, flue gas or even waste gas. By removing or keeping this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, an important contribution to protecting the climate is made.
The electric power required for green methanol production comes from renewable energies that produce more electrical energy than the grid needs at peak times, such as wind power or geothermal energy. Of course, hydroelectric power, which is a steady source of energy, can also be used. Therefore, this green methanol technology makes particular sense in countries where there is plenty of renewable power as well as a regulatory framework that promotes renewable energy and its subsequent conversion into chemicals.