Cabinet Note on Methanol
Cabinet Note on Methanol
Why in news?
- NITI Aayog and the Ministry for Petroleum and Natural Gas are drafting a Cabinet Note on methanol.
What is a Cabinet Note and the initiative?
- When a Cabinet note is circulated it covers all aspects and issues that may pose a challenge for Methanol Policy implementation.
- The policy will be a combined effort of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Fertiliser and Coal among others.
- The NITI Aayog will be a facilitator.
- It is also looking at possible international collaborations.
- This is to get help during the interim period till coal to methanol production in India reaches a level that it can meet the demand.
- There is a need to import certain quantity of methanol till then.
What makes methanol a better option for India?
- Methanol is a cost-effective, non-polluting and versatile fuel.
- It can fully or partially replace petrol, diesel or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
- With methanol, India aims at trimming the crude oil import bill by 10% by 2022.
- It can thus reduce India’s dependence on energy imports.
- Ethanol is made largely from plant-based sources, such as sugarcane and vegetable oil.
- A land-constrained country like India can ill-afford this.
- But unlike this, methanol can be derived from a variety of renewable, non-renewable and abundantly available feedstock.
- These include agricultural biomass, urban solid waste, coal, and natural gas.
- It, significantly, includes even carbon dioxide (CO2) present in the air.
What is the Potential? | Cabinet Note on Methanol
India’s potential to produce methanol is huge. As, India has over –
- 125 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves
- 500 million tonnes of biomass (generated annually)
- substantial quantities of stranded natural gas
- The locally generated and relatively cheaper methanol can significantly contribute to saving cost.
- The Indian Railways is considering converting its entire fleet of 6,000 diesel engines to methanol-operated locomotives.
- This could cut down the railways’ energy bill by half.
- Besides, if about 20% of crude oil imports are substituted by methanol, vehicular pollution can be slashed by 40%.
- In all, this is a positive move serving both the energy- and environment-related objectives.
What are the concerns? | Cabinet Note on Methanol
- Methanol-powered vehicles are almost totally non-polluting.
- However, a large amount of CO2, a potent polluter, is emitted during the process of making methanol from coal.
- This will need to be either captured and stored or used to co-generate power in methanol plants.
- Otherwise, it has to be recycled into methanol.
- However, the technology for this purpose needs further refinement and scaling up.
- Also, internal combustion engines now can accept methanol-doping of only up to 15% with minimal modification.
- Higher levels of blending will require changes in engine design.
- Despite these, the overall gains from the use of methanol outweigh the cost of surmounting the drawbacks.
- It could certainly add a new dimension to the country’s energy security.