Methanol is a light, colorless and volatile liquid alcohol with a distinctive order. It is the simplest type of alcohol and is prepared by directly combining carbon monoxide gas and hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. The global methanol market reached a value of US$ 26 Billion in 2020. Methanol markets are relatively fragmented, while formaldehyde synthesis remains methanol’s single-largest outlet. Other major outlets include the production of olefins, methyl tert-butyl ether/methyl tert-amyl ether (MTBE/TAME), dimethyl ether (DME), and as the blending component for gasoline.
Methanol consists of a methyl group linked to a polar hydroxyl group. With more than 20 million tons produced annually, it is used as a precursor to other commodity chemicals, including formaldehyde, acetic acid, methyl tert-butyl ether, methyl benzoate, anisole, peroxyacids, as well as a host of more specialised chemicals
Chemical Precursors (55%)
As the simplest alcohol, methanol is used in the production of many secondary chemicals.
Many of these, such as MMA, chloromethane, and acetic acid, are important in polymer production.
Others, such as methylamine, are used in pharmaceuticals.
Methanol - to - Olefin / Paraffin produces other feedstock chemicals.
Formaldehyde production is the main use of methanol, accounting for 29 % of global production.
Formaldehyde is used in the production of a wide range of plastics and resins, such as melamine and formica.
Fuels and additives (34%)
Methanol can be used as a fuel, both directly and through blending with gasoline.
It can be used to produce other fuel additives such as MTBE.
It features prominently in the production of biodiesel, and in the production of dimethyl ether, a green diesel substitute.
Other uses (11%)
As well as being used as a common solvent, methanol has many uses in the energy industry.
Methanol is useful for both hydrogen and energy storage
It can be used in Methanol Fuel Cells, which have higher energy density than Li batteries
James Hayward and Michael Bowker
Cardiff Catalysis Institute
School of Chemistry