Methanol is utilised as a motor fuel to power ship engines and generate clean power worldwide. Methanol is also used to create di-methyl ether (DME), a liquid fuel similar to diesel. Existing diesel engines need to be minimally changed to use DME instead of diesel.
The majority of worldwide methanol production is derived from natural gas, which is a relatively easy process.
Since India doesn't have many natural gas reserves, producing methanol from imported natural gas leads to the outflow of foreign exchange. Also, it is sometimes uneconomical due to excessive natural gas prices.
The next best option is to utilise India's abundant coal. However, due to the high ash percentage of Indian coal, most internationally accessible technology will not be adequate for our demands.
To address this issue, the BHEL R&D centre at Hyderabad began working on Indian high ash coal gasification in 2016 with support from the NITI Aayog to produce 0.25 tons per day of methanol.
The Department of Science and Technology supported the project with Rs ten crore grant.
On Tuesday (7 September), BHEL successfully demonstrated a facility to create 0.25 TPD Methanol from high ash Indian coal using a 1.2 TPD Fluidised bed gasifier. The methanol purity of the crude methanol produced is between 98 and 99.5 per cent.
After achieving this feat, BHEL further develops critical processes such as the catalytic conversion of syngas to methanol.