Summary of levelized production cost estimates of fuel (LCOF) for the examined plant designs. The horizontal red lines show the comparable price of gasoline (before tax, refining margin 0.3 $/gal, exchange rate: 1 € = 1.326 $) with crude oil prices 100 $/bbl and 150 $/bbl. Source: VTT. A study... Read more →


German researchers improve catalyst for steam reforming of methanol with salt coating; enabler for renewable energy storage systems

Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) report in the journal Angewandte Chemie their development of an enhanced platinum catalyst for the steam reforming of methanol to release hydrogen. A central problem of renewable energy technology lies in the great variation of energy generated (i.e., intermittency). One proposed solution is... Read more →


Schematic diagram of the Primus STG+ process. Click to enlarge. Primus Green Energy Inc., developer of a proprietary process to produce gasoline and other fuels from biomass and/or natural gas (earlier post), will provide financial support to engineers at Princeton University for general research on synthetic fuels, which will include... Read more →


Cartoon of the process. Click to enlarge. Researchers at Columbia University have developed a biological process utilizing autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) for the conversion of methane (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. In fed-batch reactors using mixed... Read more →


Researchers from the US and China have determined that a duckweed biorefinery producing a range of gasoline, diesel and kerosene products can be economically competitive with petroleum-based processes, even in some cases without environmental legislation that penalizes greenhouse gas emissions. A paper describing their analysis of four different scenarios for... Read more →


(a) Schematic pathway for a homogeneously catalyzed methanol reforming process via three discrete dehydrogenation steps. (b) Best performing catalysts. Nielsen et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers from Germany and Italy have developed an efficient low-temperature catalytic process to produce hydrogen from methanol. Hydrogen generation by this method proceeds at 65–95... Read more →


New catalyst for efficient bi-reforming of methane from any source for methanol and hydrocarbon synthesis; “metgas”

Researchers at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, have developed a new catalyst based on nickel oxide on magnesium oxide (NiO/MgO) that is effective for the bi-reforming with steam and CO2 (combined steam and dry reforming) of methane as well as natural gas... Read more →


The ExxonMobil MTG process flow diagram. Source: EMRE. Click to enlarge. Sundrop Fuels, Inc., a gasification-based drop-in advanced biofuels company, finalized a licensing agreement to use ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology to be incorporated into a “green gasoline” production facility. Located near Alexandria, Louisiana, Sundrop Fuels plans... Read more →


Cascade catalysis for the lower temperature conversion of CO2 to methanol. Credit: ACS, Huff and Sanford. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the University of Michigan have demonstrated the viability of cascade catalysis—i.e., the use of a series of different homogeneous catalysts operating in a single vessel—for the reduction of CO2... Read more →


Update on Celanese plans for commercialization of TCX hydrocarbons-to-ethanol process; scale and economics

Celanese Corporation, developer of a hydrocarbons-to-ethanol production process derived from its acetyl technology (earlier post) announced plans in June to enter the industrial ethanol market in China by revamping the market entry strategy to allow the company to enter 6-12 months sooner than originally planned. (Earlier post.) In a recent... Read more →


Overview of the process. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) have developed a one-pot process for the catalytic conversions of wood and cellulosic solids to liquid and gaseous products in a reactor operating at 300–320 °C and 160-220 bar. Little or no char is... Read more →


Anthropogenic chemical carbon cycle. Click to enlarge. In a Perspective published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, researchers from the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California describe their work on developing the feasible anthropogenic recycling of carbon dioxide. Under their scheme, carbon... Read more →


Binding pocket representation of P450 enzyme with activator (perfluoro chain in green) and docking poses of a methane cluster (carbon atoms in black and hydrogen atoms in white) hovering above Fe=O (red) in the porphyrin ring. Zilly et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Carbon... Read more →


NREL teaming with Oorja to validate direct methanol fuel cell technology in material handling applications

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collaborating with Oorja Protonics, a developer and manufacturer of direct methanol fuel cell technology (earlier post) on a two-year project to deploy and demonstrate methanol fuel cells for power pallet jacks in four commercial wholesale distribution centers. The total... Read more →


Taking another look at methanol as an alternative transportation fuel for the US

A recent white paper by Leslie Bromberg of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center and Wai K. Cheng of the Sloan Automotive Laboratory assessing the prospects for methanol as an alternative transportation fuel in the US concludes that methanol is a safe and viable transportation fuel, although it not as... Read more →


TEM image of Pt/RGO1. Click to enlarge. Scientists at the University of Ulster’s Nanotechnology Institute and collaborators from Peking University and University of Oxford have developed reduced graphene oxide/platinum supported electrocatalysts (Pt/RGO) that could make fuel cells more efficient and more resistant to carbon monoxide poisoning. The new electrocatalyst design... Read more →


Study finds highly-turbocharged alcohol-fueled DISI engines could be more efficient than diesels

Highly turbocharged alcohol-fueled direct-injection spark-ignition (DISI) engines operated at a high compression ratio could be as or more efficient than diesel engines while also providing advantages of lower vehicle cost, lower emissions and higher power, according to a recent modeling study by Leslie Bromberg and Daniel Cohn at MIT. In... Read more →


Uhde Gasification Selected for Commercial Biomass-to-Methanol Plant in Sweden

VärmlandsMetanol AB has selected Uhde, a ThyssenKrupp company, as technology supplier and engineering partner for a biomass-to-methanol plant in Hagfors, Sweden, with an annual production of 100,000 tonnes of fuel-grade methanol from forest-residue biomass. Investment for the plant will be about SEK 3 billion (US$416 million). The VärmlandsMetanol plant will... Read more →


SOEC cells with a proton-conducting electrolyte can operate at lower temperatures and can be used to produce different kinds of synthetic fuels. Cells with an oxide ion-conducting electrolyte require a high operating temperature which will cause the synthetic fuels to split. This type can therefore only be used to produce... Read more →


Ford’s sustainable materials strategy. Click to enlarge. Ford is increasing the use of renewable and recyclable materials such as the soy and bio-based seat cushions and seatbacks on the 2010 Ford Taurus. Ford vehicles are now 85% recyclable by weight. In 2009, Ford saved approximately $4.5 million by using recycled... Read more →


Solar2fuel Project in Germany Pursuing Photocatalytic Conversion of CO2 to Methanol for Engines or Fuel Cells

Researchers from BASF, Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (EnBW), Heidelberg University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are seeking to develop a process for the photocatalytic conversion of CO2 into methanol for use in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. The Verbund project “Solar2fuel” belongs to the “Forum Organic Electronics” excellence cluster... Read more →


Oorja Protonics Introduces New Direct Methanol Fuel Cell On-Board Battery Charger

Oorja Protonics, a developer and manufacturer of direct methanol fuel cell technology (earlier post), has introduced the OorjaPac Model 1 to its product line. With a 4.5 kW power output, Model 1 has the highest power output in the methanol fuel cell industry, according to Oorja. The operating cost for... Read more →


CO2 was converted into methanol by adding it to frustrated Lewis Pairs in toluene under H2, heating the mixture, and vacuum distillation. Credit: Angewandte Chemie. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the University of Oxford are developing a method for the homogeneous conversion of CO2 to methanol (i.e., methanol is the... Read more →


Tsinghua Study Finds That Conventional Three-Way Catalyst Can Handle the Unregulated Emissions from Low-Content Methanol-Gasoline Blends

A study by researchers at Tsinghua University characterizing the unregulated emissions and combustion characteristics of low-content methanol-gasoline blends has concluded that while engine-out methanol and formaldehyde, as unregulated emissions, increased almost linearly with the methanol content in the fuel, the conventional three-way catalyst (TWC) has a high conversion efficiency for... Read more →


Report from CS3 Symposium Highlights Work Toward Artificial Photosynthesis For Direct Solar Production of Liquid Transportation Fuels

Scientists are making progress toward development of an “artificial leaf” that mimics photosynthesis, but that converts sunlight and water into a liquid fuel such as methanol for cars and trucks, according to a new report summarizing the discussions from the 1st Annual Chemical Sciences and Society Symposium (CS3). However, much... Read more →


Dynario, fuel cartridge and consumer device. Click to enlarge. Toshiba Corporation launched its first direct methanol fuel-cell product: Dynario, an external power source that delivers power to mobile digital consumer products. (Earlier post.) Dynario’s performance is optimized by its hybrid structure, which uses a lithium-ion battery charged by the fuel... Read more →


Left.High-resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy image of platinum nanoparticles on a fuel cell electrode. Right. Schematics of high-index planes observed on Pt nanoparticles. Credit: ACS, Lee at al. (2009). Click to enlarge. A team of researchers from MIT, the Japan Institute of Science and Technology, and Brookhaven National Laboratory have found... Read more →


Swedish Energy R&D Board Awards Up To US$72M to Chemrec for BioDME and Biomethanol Demo

The Swedish Energy R&D Board will provide an investment grant for the demonstration at industrial scale of the Chemrec technology for production of the renewable motor fuels BioDME (dimethyl ether) and Biomethanol. The new plant will be built at the Domsjö Fabriker biorefinery in Örnsköldsvik. (The biorefinery Domsjö Fabriker produces... Read more →


(Left) Charge and heat flow in the STEP system. Colored arrows indicate the direction of heat flow (yellow arrows), electron flow (blue), and reagent flow (green). (Right) Auxiliary components to reach higher STEP temperatures and/or decrease the heat incident on the PV. Light harvesting can use various optical concentrators and... Read more →


Nissan North America Deploys Oorja Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Packs for Material Handling Equipment

Nissan North America (NNA) has commercially deployed methanol fuel cell packs to power material handling equipment (tugs) at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant. The methanol fuel cells from Oorja Protonics (earlier post) provide a more energy efficient and cost-effective battery-charging process for the 60 tugs that are used to transport... Read more →


New Solid Catalyst for the Direct Low-Temperature Oxidation of Methane to Methanol

A team led by Ferdi Schüth at the Max Planck Institute of Coal Research in Mülheim (Germany) and Markus Antonietti at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam-Golm (Germany) has developed a novel catalyst for the direct low-temperature oxidation of methane to methanol. A report on their... Read more →


SymPowerco’s Flowing Electrolyte DMFC replaces a proton exchange membrane with a flowing electrolyte to reduce methanol crossover. Source: SymPowerco. Click to enlarge. SymPowerco Corporation, holder of a direct methanol fuel cell technology, has acquired 70% ownership in both Highline Hydrogen Hybrids, Inc. (HHHI) and Hoss Motor Sports, Inc. (HMSI) in... Read more →


Schematic illustration of a generic liquid-fuel energy cycle utilizing a renewable electrical source. Credit: ACS. Click to enlarge. Researchers at Northwestern University are proposing, and have begun experimental validation of, a renewable liquid-fuel energy storage cycle based on the co-electrolysis of H2O and CO2 using a solid oxide electrolysis cell... Read more →


IBN researchers demonstrated their CO2 reduction process with dry air from a balloon, as well as a compressed air supply. Click to enlarge. Researchers at Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a catalytic process for the conversion of CO2 to methanol under mild conditions (room temperature). A... Read more →


Dimethoxymethane (DMM)/Diesel Blends as a Low-Cost Approach for Emissions Control

Relationship between NOx and smoke of the DMM blends under one set of speed and load conditions. Click to enlarge. Credit: ACS Researchers at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China have investigated the combustion, performance, and emissions of a direct-injection (DI) diesel engine fueled with dimethoxymethane (DMM)/diesel blends, with DMM content... Read more →


New Process for Direct Conversion of Glycerol to Methanol

The new process catalytically converts glycerol to methanol using hydrogen under mild conditions. Click to enlarge. Researchers at Oxford University (UK) have developed a new method to produce methanol (CH3OH) directly from glycerol (C3H5(OH)3), a byproduct of the transesterification process that produces biodiesel. The process, developed by Professor Edman Tsang... Read more →


Alcohol Boosting Enables Significant Downsizing of Heavy-Duty Diesels to Smaller Gasoline Engines

Using a direct-injected alcohol fuel as a second, boosting fuel can allow a turbo-charged, high-compression ratio spark-ignited gasoline engine to replace larger diesels in certain heavy-duty applications, according to work being done by Ethanol Boosting Systems, LLC (EBS), a spin-off from MIT. (Earlier post.) A study by EBS supported by... Read more →


Researchers Develop Process for High-Yield Conversion of Lignin to Bio-Hydrocarbons and Methanol

Proposed routes for the conversion of lignin into alkanes and methanol. Click to enlarge. Researchers at Peking University (PKU) and the Institut des Sciences et Ingénierie Chimiques Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a two-step process for converting lignin—a key component of plant cell walls—to alkanes (hydrocarbons) and... Read more →


Ford, Brunel Studying CAI Combustion with Methanol and Ethanol in Direct Injection Engine

Researchers at Ford Motor Company’s Dunton Technical Centre (UK) and Brunel University (UK) are studying CAI (controlled auto-ignition, also referred to as HCCI, homogeneous charge compression ignition) combustion of methanol and ethanol as part of a larger, on-going CAI project. In results presented at the 2008 SAE International Powertrains, Fuels... Read more →


Two Developments in DMFC Output: New MIT Membrane Boosts Power More Than 50% and Sharp Achieves Highest Power Density Yet

MIT engineers have developed an alternative membrane for direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC) that can increase power output by more than 50%. The new material is also considerably less expensive than its conventional industrial counterpart, among other advantages. Separately, Sharp Corporation announced that it achieved the world’s highest power density... Read more →


Project to Start Trials on Ship-Board Methanol SOFC APU

The Wallenius MV Undine will host the methanol SOFC trial. After nearly one and a half years of research and development, the EU-funded METHAPU (Validation of renewable methanol based auxiliary power systems for commercial vessels) project is about to start trials on a prototype of a methanol-based solid oxide fuel... Read more →


Oorja Protonics Launches Direct Methanol Fuel Cell Technology; Targeting Material Handling Market

Schematic of working principle of a direct methanol fuel cell. Click to enlarge. Source: LTNT Oorja Protonics has publicly launched its patented direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology. Funded by venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and DAG Ventures, and led by fuel cell pioneer Sanjiv Malhotra, Oorja has been operating... Read more →


ACAL Energy Announces Successful Operation of Novel Fuel Cell With Recirculating Liquid Cathode Technology

ACAL replaces the cathode in a conventional PEM fuel cell (left) with a liquid, non-precious metal catalyst system (right). Click to enlarge. UK-based ACAL Energy Ltd. has announced the successful operation of a new type of fuel cell system based on its proprietary recirculating liquid cathode technology, known as FlowCath.... Read more →


EPSRC Funds CO2 to Methane and Methanol Project

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is providing £167,530 (US$336,000) in funding for an 18-month research project that aims to develop an efficient, inexpensive aerogel photocatalytic diode that will reduce carbon dioxide and generate methane and methanol for use as fuels. The project begins 1 April 2008.... Read more →


Lotus Engineering Shows Exige 270E Tri-fuel at Geneva; Researching Synthetic Methanol from CO2 as Future Fuel

The Exige 270E Tri-fuel is intended to give Lotus insight into flex-fuel combustion that may include methanol. At the Geneva Motor Show, Lotus Engineering unveiled the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel, the most powerful road version yet of the Exige and one that runs on any mixture of gasoline, bioethanol or... Read more →


UOP and USC to Partner on Converting CO2 to Methanol or DME for Fuel

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, and the University of Southern California’s (USC) Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute will partner to develop and commercialize new technology to transform carbon dioxide into cleaner-burning alternative fuels. USC has developed fundamental chemistry to transform carbon dioxide to methanol or dimethyl ether. The agreement grants UOP... Read more →


Volvo Demonstrates Trucks Running on Seven Different Renewable Fuels; Evaluates the Fuels

Volvo’s seven renewable fuel trucks and a summary chart of the fuel evaluation. More evaluation detail below. Click to enlarge. The Volvo Group showed seven of its diesel trucks modified to run on 100% renewable fuels: biodiesel, biogas, biogas combined with biodiesel, ethanol/methanol, dimethyl ether (DME), synthetic diesel and hydrogen... Read more →


Michigan, Chemrec and NewPage Partner to Explore Black Liquor Gasification to Fuels Project

Block flow diagram of the Chemrec BLG Motor Fuel (BLGMF) process at its development plant (DP-3) site. The pulp mill line is to the left of the dotted red line; the BLGMF flow is to the right. Click to enlarge. Sweden-based Chemrec AB and Ohio-based NewPage Corporation have formed a... Read more →


Volvo Invests in Black Liquor Gasification Company

Block flow diagram of a Chemrec Black Liquor Gasification with Motor Fuels (BLGMF) production concept. Click to enlarge. Volvo Technology Transfer AB is investing in Chemrec AB, a company that has developed a technology for gasification of black liquor, a residual product from the pulp industry. Volvo Technology Transfer AB... Read more →


China to Invest $128 Billion to Develop Coal-Based Synthetic Fuels

Xinhua. China will invest more than one trillion yuan (US$128 billion) to develop alternative coal-based synthetic fuels to ease the country’s dependence on oil imports, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The project aims to produce 30 million tons of liquefied coal and 20 million tons of... Read more →