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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 –

  1. 125 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves
  2. 500 million tonnes of biomass (generated annually)
  3. 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.


Environment & Biodiversity

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