A Dutch consortium is converting a conventional methanol plant in Delfzijl, the Netherlands, to produce biomethanol. The output—ultimately an estimated 1 billion liters (264 million gallons US) per year—will be directed to addressing the European Union’s requirement for a 5.75% biofuel component by 2010. Biomethanol can be blended directly into gasoline and serve as a substitute for MTB.
BioMethanol Chemie Holding (BV), a consortium of Econcern, NOM, OakInvest, Ir. S. Doorn and Ir. P. Hamm, purchased the plant from Akzo Nobel, DSM and Dynea.
The plant will be started up as soon as possible, initially producing fossil methanol as before. Modifications will be carried out over the next nine months, turning the plant into the world’s first bio-methanol plant. In the first phase, it will produce 100 kT [100 million liters] bio-methanol, a capacity that will be increased substantially in the following phases.—Paul Hamm, temporary CEO of BioMethanol Chemie Holding
The plant will use a new process to make bio-methanol from glycerine, a byproduct of biodiesel production. Prices of glycerol have dropped due to the increasing supply resulting from rising biodiesel production.
Methanol (CH3OH) is the simplest alcohol, containing one carbon atom, and can be manufactured from a variety of carbon-based feedstocks such as natural gas, coal, and biomass. Worldwide, more than 90 methanol plants have the capacity to produce more than 11 billion gallons of methanol annually, according to the American Methanol Institute.
Most methanol production is a two-stage process that first converts a feedstock (often natural gas) into a syngas stream consisting of carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2).
The second step is the catalytic synthesis of methanol from the synthesis gas. Each of these steps can use a variety of approaches and technologies.
2 CH4 + 3 H2O → CO + CO2 + 7 H2 (Synthesis Gas)
CO + CO2 + 7 H2 → 2 CH3OH + 2 H2 + H2O
If an external source of CO2 is available, the excess hydrogen can be consumed and converted to additional methanol.
The most favorable gasification processes are those in which the surplus hydrogen is oxidized to water, during which steam reforming is accomplished through the following partial oxidation reaction:
CH4 + ½O2 → CO + 2 H2 → CH3OH
CH4 + O2 → CO2 + 2 H2
The carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced in the last process would then react with an additional hydrogen from the top set of reactions to produce additional methanol. Methanol synthesis is highly exothermic, taking place over a catalyst bed at moderate temperatures.
Shortly after the announcement of the project early in November, Teijin Ltd., a global chemical company based in Japan, acquired a 25% stake in BioMethanol Chemie Holding (BV). Since its acquisition in 2000 of Twaron, a fiber originally developed by Akzo Nobel, Teijin has been active in the Dutch market and is now the largest Japanese investor in the chemical industry in the Netherlands.