Methanol (Methyl Alcohol) Production and Applications

What is Methanol?

Methanol is a chemical compound with the formula CH3OH, first isolated by an Irish Chemist, Robert Boyle, in the year 1661. It is a colorless, lightweight, highly volatile, flammable liquid with a characteristic alcoholic odor similar to ethanol. It is the simplest member of the alcohol family with one carbon atom, hence, commonly referred to as methyl alcohol. It is a versatile chemical in various industrial processes for the production of products that are used in everyday lives.

Methanol is poisonous for human consumption and belongs to the category of non-drinking type of alcohol. Small quantities of methanol occur in nature as a part of the metabolic process of many living organisms. On an industrial scale, methanol can be produced from municipal solid waste and recycled carbon dioxide, offering a “future proof” transition with greener approach for the production fuels and chemicals.

It is estimated that about 45% of the world’s methanol production is used for energy applications, especially for vehicle fuel or marine fuel. China alone contributes to 65% of the world’s methanol production and further uses it as a transportation fuel. Other countries using methanol fuel include Japan, Israel, South Korea, Japan, and Italy. Furthermore, the production of methanol is an important market for natural gas.

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Importance and uses of methanol

The global market of methanol is expected to grow from $83.30 billion in 2018 to 130.68 billion by 2026. The growing market size is an implication of the wide range of applications that the chemical offers.

  • Methanol is used as a source in the synthesis of various chemical compounds and components
  • Methanol fuel is an alternative for biofuel and used in internal combustion engines
  • Methanol is used large-scale production of petrochemicals
  • Methanol is converted to formaldehyde by catalytic vapor phase oxidation; the formaldehyde formed is used in polymers
  • It is used in the production of hydrocarbons
  • It is most commonly used as an antifreeze
  • Methanol occurs in fruits and vegetables and forms a dietary supplement. This dietary methanol helps to regulate human gene activity
  • Methanol is used as a precursor for methyl ethers, methylamines, and methyl halides
  • It is an excellent carrier for energy
  • It is used in wastewater plants
  • It is used as a fuel in boating stoves and camping
  • Pure methanol is used in the manufacture of perfumes, resins, and pharmaceuticals.

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How is methanol made?

Methanol, an important industrial chemical compound, is chiefly produced on large-scale using natural gas as the primary feedstock. However, methanol can also be produced from other renewable resources like wood, renewable electricity, recycled carbon dioxide, municipal waste, and even sewage. The industrial production of methanol includes the mixing of natural gas with steam in dedicated reactors. The mixture is heated well and passed over a catalyst in the steam reformer. Further, the gas formed, known as the “synthesis gas,” is pressurized and passed over a catalyst to convert it into crude methanol. The crude methanol is finally distilled to remove water and obtain pure methanol that is biodegradable and readily soluble in water.

Top manufacturers of methanol include:

  • Celanese Corporation
  • Methanex Corporation
  • Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company
  • Mitsui & Co., Ltd.

Why is methanol used as a first solvent?

Methanol is used as a primary industrial solvent in the process of producing inks, dyes, resins, and adhesives. It is popular among the chemical fraternity for being the first choice of solvent in many processes; it is also used in the pharmaceutical industry as a solvent for the production of important drugs such as streptomycin and cholesterol to name a few. The most significant pharmaceutical ingredients like vitamins and hormones also use methanol as a solvent in the production process.

Methanol is used as a solvent due to its great miscibility with water and its exceptional use as a mobile phase modifier in reverse-phase, high-performance liquid chromatography (RPLC). It also contributes to increasing the resolution in MEKC (Micellar electrokinetic chromatography). The addition of methanol to such chromatographic processes reduces the electro-osmotic flow and increases the migration time and window, thus, increasing the solubility of the solute into the aqueous phase.

What are the demand implications for methanol?

The global methanol market is ever-growing and estimated to reach $26.6 billion by 2025 from a current market size of (in 2020) of $ 20.4 billion. The growing market of methanol is due to the increasing demand for methanol-based fuel and important chemical derivatives. The demand is expected to increase to 95.2 million metric tons which will in turn increase the production of the chemical. The methanol demand by use and the implications are listed below.

The demand implication of methanol:

  • With the growing demand for methanol derivatives, it is implied that the GDP (Gross domestic product) of the methanol derivates will witness steady growth.
  • The anticipated increase in the crude oil price will eventually lead to the rise in methanol prices as the energy applications are closely related to oil. This rise, however, is predicted to come down over the next few years due to the increasing competition with the alternatives.

Where to buy Methanol in India?

Methanol or any other chemical can be purchased from a chemical manufacturer, supplier, or third-party dealer in India. This has been the long-followed trend that remains predominant even in today’s technology-driven world. But in recent times the course of chemical buying and selling is changing for better. Companies like have revolutionized the entire chemical procurement process, making it easy for both the buyers and sellers to sell/buy chemicals in the fastest, easiest and efficient way like never before. The hassle of finding the perfect seller/buyer is slowly becoming history, making way for easier ways to buy/sell chemicals that fits the requirement of the modern generation.

To buy methanol in India, look for none other than, India’s first and largest chemical bazaar. This digital trend is the new chemical procurement process making it easy for both sellers and buyers. This is a simple process where you no longer have to negotiate on the price, quality, transportation, or any other issues. All you do is open from your PC or phone, choose the chemical you need along with the details of purity, pricing, quantity, and the location of the supplier; make a secured online payment, and wait for the chemical to reach within the estimated time. That’s all! Isn’t the digital process simpler than the conventional method? Try and let us know.