Methanol, chemical formula (CH3OH), is colorless and volatile liquid alcohol produced by oxidizing methane. The compound finds application in the transportation industry as an alternative fuel for its high-octane rated, excellent blending properties. Methanol is environmentally-friendly, reduces greenhouse, and is considered as an ideal alternative for crude oil, gasoline, and diesel fuel.
Methanol is used across several applications, from biomass to landfill gases. The compound can be obtained from wasted CO2 to generate electricity. Since the 1800s, methanol, a primary feedstock, has been serving as the world’s widely used industrial chemicals, mainly produced using natural gas. Globally, the methanol plant produces around 5,000 metric tons that are 2.3 billion liters of methanol every day by reforming natural gas.
As per the statistics from The Methanol Foundation, in the year 2015, the global demand for methanol reached 75 million metric tons, primarily driven by the rising energy application for methanol, accounting for about 40% of the total methanol consumption. About 200,000 tons or 254 million liters of methanol is used for chemical feedstock or transportation fuel, further driving the market growth. Globally, there are over 90 methanol plants with a total production capacity of approximately 110 million metric tons.
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The power industry is the backbone of the industrial sector, offering energy to manufacturing, industrial, commercial, and residential sectors across the globe. Fossil fuel power plants transform heat generated from coal into electricity using steam turbines. In 2017, fossil fuel power plants produced about 64.5% of electricity globally. In 2018, the electric power sector accounted for around 35% of the U.S. natural gas consumption. The global electricity demand increased by 4% in the year 2018. Coal remained the largest source of electricity generation with nearly 2.6% increase, further surging the carbon dioxide emission by 2.5%, with coal being responsible for about 80% of the overall emission.
Figure: Power sector CO2 emissions by coal in the Sustainable Development Scenario, 2000–2040 (Emission in GT).
The pharmaceutical segment dominates the methanol market and will continue the same during the forecast period. Methanol is used as a solvent for manufacturing cholesterol, streptomycin, vitamins, hormones, and other pharmaceutical drugs. As per the data provided by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the sales of special pharmaceuticals were valued at USD 12.2 billion in 2017 and are projected to double in the coming years. As per the data provided by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, the market witnessed rapid growth in research activities in Brazil, India, and China, which is about 11.5%, 11%, and 9.4%, respectively.
In the last few years, the pharmaceutical industry has been expanding at an exponential rate, further increasing the demand for methanol. Today, India is one of the largest providers of generic drugs worldwide, and the expansion of the pharmaceutical sector in the country has propelled the demand for methanol. In 2017, the Indian pharmaceutical industry registered about 46 merger & acquisition deals worth USD 1.47 billion. As per IBEF, in October 2018, the Uttar Pradesh State (India) Government declared to establish six pharma parks and has funded about USD 712–855 million.
China alone produces about 65% of the world’s methanol, followed by Italy, Japan, Israel, and South Korea. Energy is one of the most significant aspects of the economic development of a country. As per the NITI Aayog, India is expected to play an essential role in the global energy space, and the country is projected to contribute about 25% to the global energy demand by 2040. The energy demand in India is anticipated to grow with a CAGR of 3.5% by 2040. In 2015–16, India imported around 37% of its total primary energy demand, whereas the country’s import dependency of crude oil and natural gas increased from 73% and 17% in 2005–06 to 81% and 40% in 2015.
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China is the largest producer of methanol and DME and leads the world market. In 2015, the country produced around 47 million tons of methanol that accounted for 55% of the global methanol production and employs over 70% of the total methanol produced from coal. China also produced 3.8 million tons of DME in 2015.
In China, extensive use of methanol in the automobile sector drives the methanol market. The country has gained momentum in the commercialization of methanol vehicles and leads the world in terms of scale and technology. Guizhou province of Southwest China plans to introduce about 10,000 methanol vehicles by the end of 2019, of which about 7,000 vehicles will be employed in Guiyang. The Guizhou government introduced new policies that include subsidies urging taxi companies, government departments, and schools to use methanol vehicles. The city is home to more than 5,000 methanol-fueled taxis, accounting for 75% of the total methanol vehicles in the country. The government also established about 13 methanol filling gas stations to encourage the use of methanol across the country.