NITI Aayog bats for methanol, sees it retailing at Rs 19 a litre

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 06 Jun 2018

NITI Aayog, the Indian government’s premier think-tank, is said to be working on a roadmap to enable extensive use of methanol as a fuel, even replace both petrol and diesel in transportation, and also LPG and kerosene as cooking fuels. The roadmap also suggests that methanol could replace diesel in the railways and marine sectors, in gensets, power generation and methanol-based reformers.

This proposal looks at using methanol as a complementary energy source along with hybrid and electric mobility.

The report states that methanol being a scalable and sustainable fuel can be produced from a variety of feedstock like natural gas, coal (Indian High Ash Coal), bio-mass, municipal solid waste and most importantly from CO2. It further highlights that the fuel's usage is already being actively pursued by China, Italy, Sweden, Israel, US, Australia, Japan and many other European countries. It claims 10 percent of fuel used in China’s transport sector is methanol.

Methanol as a fuel
Methanol is claimed to burn efficiently in all internal combustion engines, producing no particulate matter, no soot, almost zero SOX and NOX emissions (near zero pollution).

NITI Aayog states that the gaseous version of methanol ‘DME’ can be blended with LPG as a substitute for diesel in large buses and trucks. To adopt methanol as a transport fuel, it would require minimal infrastructure modifications and capital, both in vehicles and in terminal and distribution infrastructure. The methanol 15 percent blend (M15) in petrol will reduce pollution by 33 percent and diesel replacement by methanol will reduce by more than 80 percent.

The release states that urban transportation contributes close to 40 percent in urban air pollution, and that annually 400,000 deaths take place in India due to air pollution. It states that field trials have already begun in India to adopt the M15 program in the transportation sector. The notification of fuels for M15 and M100 are already complete.

NITI Aayog states that 100 percent methanol engines look to replace diesel in its totality. The government body states that one of the reasons why methanol has the potential to be an enduring solution to human energy needs is because the C02 (greenhouse gas emission) both from using methanol and while producing methanol can be tapped back to produce methanol. This enables a seamless loop of CO2 sequestration cycle that is created to perpetually burn fuels without polluting the environment. C02 from steel plants, thermal power plants and cement plants can be tapped in large quantities to produce methanol.

Looking to reduce 20% of crude oil imports
This technology, says NITI Aayog, has already acquired commercial maturity and countries like Iceland are producing it in meaningful quantities.

NITI Aayog has drawn out a comprehensive plan to replace 20 percent of crude imports from methanol alone. It claims this fuel will bring down pollution in India by more than 40 percent and also benefit from import substitution.

Whats more, the government think-tank says that over a period of time diesel could be completely be done away with. It states that the Indian Railways alone uses three billion litres of diesel every year, and plans are to convert 6,000 diesel railway engines to work on 100 percent methanol and make railways a carbon neutral organisation.

According to NITI Aayog, "India, by adopting methanol, can have its own indigenous fuel at the cost of approximately Rs 19 per litre, at least 30 percent cheaper than any available fuel."

It claims that methanol fuel can result in many environmental benefits and can be the answer to the burning issue of urban pollution. Also, at least 20 percent diesel consumption can be reduced in the next 5-7 years, resulting in savings of Rs 26,000 crore per annum.

(Image courtesy: Fuel Freedom Foundation)