The prospects of small scale methanol production is a topic that comes up from time to time. The main attraction is often to utilize excess natural gas from smaller oil wells where transporting the gas is deemed too costly and the gas is instead flared. If instead the natural gas could be converted to methanol the cost of transportation would drastically reduce and the methanol add a source of income. 

Rigzone.com report that the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) and FielCell Energy Inc. (FCE) have started a project to develop a fuel cell capable of partially oxidise natural gas and other methane-rich gas to methanol. The challenge is to provide the right amount of catalytic activity to effect partial oxidation of methane to methanol.  

If successful this technology could be used for small scale methanol plants with viable capital cost. Thus making use of the excess natural gas at oil wells of for production of methanol from bio gas. An additional advantage is that the heat and electricity produced during the process could be utilised. 

Read the article on Rigzone.com [Direct link]