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Application of Synthetic Renewable Methanol to Power the Future Propulsion
ISSN: 0148-7191, e-ISSN: 2688-3627
To be published on September 15, 2020 by SAE International in United States
Methanol can be considered as a very promising alternative fuel for transportation purposes, contributing towards decreased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite its high potential, there is a visible lack of further investments, for example in the shipping industry. This paper explains what are the biggest challenges in the market roll-out of renewable methanol. The focus of the study is on alternative production pathway and its techno-economic feasibility. However, the end-use perspective is also considered and modeled to cover the whole value chain. The current production of methanol is mostly relying on natural gas resources. Alternatively, methanol could be synthetized using CO2 originating from captured flue gases and renewable hydrogen from water electrolysis. In the first part of this work, the model of industrial-scale methanol plant using CO2 and hydrogen as feedstock was developed. However, even at industrial scale, the plant fails to reach break-even under the current market conditions. In the first part of the study, sensitivity analyses investigated the significance of cost parameters to achieve economic feasibility that is mostly attributed to the high cost of renewable hydrogen produced via water electrolysis. In the second part of the study, we address the possibility for in-engine use of methanol. The end-use of methanol is associated with certain challenges mainly related to the mixture formation and ignitability. The very high latent heat combined with low cetane number imply that some upgrading will be required for standard combustion technologies to comply with methanol. In spite of this, the use of methanol has been already demonstrated in the road transport on the Chinese market. Even higher potential can be attributed to the marine sector where few demonstration vessels have been already in operation. Different types of combustion concepts can be applied to utilize methanol in order to tackle the above mentioned challenges.