Q .With growing energy needs, should India work on exploring methanol production and application? Discuss the facts and fears associated with the Methanol economy in India. 4TH NOVEMBER,2020 (10 marks, 200 words, GS-3)
- Introductory para about the methanol, production and application.
- The next para could be about the importance.
- Then could state about the issues and challenges.
- Next para about the measures.
- Final para about the further improvements.
Methanol Economy means the replacement of fossil fuels with methanol as means of energy storage, transportation fuels and feedstocks of chemical products. India imports 99% of its methanol from Iran and Saudi Arabia who produce it from natural gas. The methanol has usage in transportation, energy, manufacturing, marine sector, electricity generation, telecom towers, chemical sector and cooking fuel.
The methanol is important for India because of-
- Energy security– India being 6th largest consumer of petroleum fuel.
- Environmental concerns– India is third highest CO2 emitter country.
- Current Account Deficit– India has high import bills due to import of crude oil.
- Inflation– the fuel prices has multiplier effect on the prices in the country.
There are certain issues and challenges that accompanies the methanol production and usage-
- It is water intensive and hence generate large amount of waste water.
- Chances of leakage and explosion.
- Damage to vehicles and its parts.
- During the process of making methanol from coal, a large amount of CO2 is emitted.
- Technology to co-generate power in methanol plants requires further refinement.
- For blending more than 15% of methanol, internal combustion engines changes in the engine design are required.
However government is trying to promote the methanol as it will reduce the import bills certainly. The Government is likely to go ahead with a target of 15% blending by methanol/DME in gasoline/diesel by 2022. Recently, Coal India Limited (CIL) planned to set up a coal based methanol plant in West Bengal. The Namrup-based Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) rolled out the country’s first methanol- based cooking fuel project ‘Green and Clean Fuel Pilot Project on Methanol Cooking Stove’ which is being promoted by the NITI Aayog.
The need of the hour is to promote research and development by creating an innovation fund. Further new plants and required infrastructure to enhance domestic methanol production to reduce dependence on the imports. The biomass and the crop residues, used cooking oils, etc. could be used to produce methanol for blending with crude oil. Promoting use of methanol cookstove, changes in vehicular engines, new generators with capacity to use methanol blended diesel could help to move towards more sustainable development.