Environmental Impact

Atlantic Methanol's Paul Moschell on How Methanol Can Reduce Carbon Emissions
Methanol is a naturally occuring, biodegradable alcohol that is present in our environment and can even be found out in space. Methanol occurs naturally during the decomposition of different plant and animal life, and we come into contact with it every day in fruits, juices, and even wine.  Though larger quantities of methanol can be toxic if ingested, this naturally occuring molecule has a very low impact when released into the environment because of how quickly it biodegrades.

When methanol is released into the environment it rapidly breaks down into other compounds, is completely miscible in water, and serves as food for a number of different bacteria.  This is why methanol is often employed in numerous industrial applications like wastewater treatment facilities to help remove nitrogen from effluent streams or as an anti-freeze component  and corrosion inhibitor in oil and gas exploration. 

Environmental consulting firm Malcolm Pirnie prepared a study entitled 'Evaluation of the Fate and Transport of Methanol in the Environment.  This research looks at the impact that methanol has when released in different scenarios,and results from laboratory and field studies documented in the literature and computer modeling were used to assess the fate and transport of methanol in the environment.  This report concluded that  "methanol spills to the soil, groundwater, and surface water will quickly biodegrade under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions."

Building upon that study, the scientific and engineering consulting firm Exponent completed another study that looked at the specific use of methanol in hydraulic fracturing fluids from natural gas recovery.  This white paper, titled 'Methanol Use in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluids' looked at specific scenarios related to this industrial application.  This report also concluded that methanol will rapdily biodegrade in these situations as well, and will not have adverse impacts on health or the environment in the result of a spill.