From paints and plastics, furniture and carpeting, to car parts and windshield wash fluid, methanol is a chemical building block used in making hundreds of products that touch our daily lives. Methanol is also an emerging energy fuel for running our cars, trucks, buses, and even electric power turbines. Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, is the simplest of all alcohols with the chemical formula CH3OH.
Methanol is a light, colorless, flammable liquid at room temperature, and contains less carbon and more hydrogen than any other liquid fuel. It is a stable biodegradable chemical that is produced and shipped around the globe everyday for a number of industrial and commercial applications. Methanol occurs naturally in the environment, and quickly breaks down in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
The methanol industry spans the entire globe, with production in Asia, North and South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Worldwide, over 90 methanol plants have a combined production capacity of about 75 million metric tons (almost 24 billion gallons or 90 billion liters), and each day more than 100,000 tons of methanol is used as a chemical feedstock or as a transportation fuel (33 million gallons or 125 million liters). The global methanol industry generates $36 billion in economic activity each year, while creating over 100,000 jobs around the globe.
This simple alcohol can be made from virtually anything that is, or ever was, a plant. This includes common fossil fuels – like natural gas and coal – and renewable resources like biomass, landfill gas, and even power plant emissions and CO2 from the atmosphere. With its diversity of production feedstocks and array of applications, it’s no wonder that methanol has been one of the world’s most widely used industrial chemicals since the 1800s.