Saturday, July 19, 2008

Methanol Instead of Hydrogen for Fuel Cells

Methanol as fuel has a long history, going back to the early days of automobiles. Methanol will fuel internal combustion engines, and will have use in flex-fuel vehicles.

Methanol will have a particularly important role in future fuel cells. It will be used instead of hydrogen gas because it is safer and easier to handle. How much methanol can we make?
....a ton of wood would make between 165 to 185 gallons of methanol. The U.S. alone generates 240 million tons of wood waste each year, which would yield at least 39.6 billion gallons of methanol. U.S. paper mills could add another 9.3 billion gallons. The uncounted tons of trash and garbage would add still more. Methanol can be made from oil, natural, gas, coal and there remains more than half of the U.S. farm acreage that isn’t in production now that could add hundreds of millions of tons annually. Methanol can even be made from CO or CO2 with a hydrogen source made available.

Industry is aware; from 2004 to 2007 the world saw seven new methanol production plants start up making an additional 10 million metric tons of methanol – a 25% increase in world capacity.

....The Direct Methanol Fuel Cell known as DMCF is a technology well worth keeping an eye on. It can’t be too long until a new battle ensues between batteries and fuel cells. _NewEnergyandFuel
Methanol is a liquid at normal temperatures, easy to store in a regular fuel tank. It does not require special high pressure containment vessels and protection. Methanol fuel cells do not run at the high temperatures that hydrogen fuel cells do. While methanol micro fuel cells already power small consumer electronic devices, scaling methanol fuel cells up to drive automobile electric motors should be doable.

The roller coaster of oil prices has driven the world economies through peaks and valleys for too long. It is time for alternate fuels to come on the scene. Oil dictatorships such as Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc. have been given too much clout to affect world affairs.

The world still needs fossil fuels, along with expanded nuclear capacity. But it also needs a much larger variety of fuels, produced in a much wider range of locations.

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