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. 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. 

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Platts report that the European spot price on methanol is expected to stay around 300 €/mt for the next three year. The price is due to additional global supply and the low oil price according to a source at  the annual meeting of the European Petrochemical Association in Berlin Monday.

"It will stay at around Eur300/mt for the next three years as long as US product is cheap and tracks the levels of oil production from Saudi Arabia [the high oil production levels that were contributing to current low oil prices] there's no reason to see a higher price," a producer source said to Platts. 

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Small scale methanol production has been discussed from time to time and a number of companies are working on movable production facilities that could be used. 

Small scale methanol production has been mentioned from time to time. The idea is to produce methanol locally, from available feedstock. This can for example be from shale gas wells that are too small to motivate pipeline connections or are too far away from any pipeline network. 

A number of companies are working on mobile or semi mobile production plants that could be used. Ben Franklin’s SGICC recently released a study performed by ADI Analytics regarding the techno-economic feasibility of small scale methanol production from primarily shale gas in North America. It is an interesting read. 

Shale Gas Innovation ¤ Commercialization Center (SGICC) 
Link to the study 

The islandic company Carbon Recycling International (CRI) has celebrated the inauguration of an expansion to the methanol production facility in Svartsengi. CRI produce methanol from geothermal energy and carbon dioxide captured from the geothermal source. Thus making the methanol truly fossil free, unlike conventional production where natural gas or coal is used as source. With the expansion the plant now has a capacity of 4,000 tons of renewable methanol per year.

[CRI press release]

More news on methanol as marine fuel in LR’s Horizons magazine, issue 42, January 2015. The first article is about the upcoming conversion of Stena Germanica to methanol. The second is about a new MethaShip project where LR and partners assess the possibility to build new methanol powered cruise ships. 

Direct links to articles: [Stena Germanica Conversion], [MethaShip]