Natural gas prices are very low and projected to stay there. There is even talk in the Wall Street Journal this morning of spot gas going to zero by late summer; it keeps flowing from wells (small guys need the revenue and many wells co-produce oil and gas or natural gas liquids), storage is limited, the winter was mild, and export facilities are limited. Inventory is running far higher than normal. Day by day and more and more it is becoming clear that gas recovery by directional drilling and fracturing has cause a paradigm shift in our energy outlook.
Methanol is made from gas, and gas is very cheap and likely to stay that way for decades. The politics are pushing us that way too; gas producing states, voters wanting cheap gas, and policy makers seeing energy independence are all raising the issue, an there is no doubt far more behind-closed-door activity:
The gasoline distributor recently filed suit against the EPA asking for relief on the coming ethanol blending requirements; it seems the law requires more ethanol than can be practically produced. And there is a good case against the environmental benefits of ethanol farming.
Apparently there are bill before Congress to require an "open fuel" standard by 2017.
Certainly methanol has it's weaknesses; I don't wish to flog that horse. But does it have weaknesses in the marine environment beyond those of ethanol? Water tolerance is one, and perhaps a major reason MTBE was used in place of methanol years ago. Add just a few drops of water and, BAM, the methanol layer falls out. It is not, by itself, a stable fuel. However, it seems that used in combination with ethanol, that problem may not be too serious...
... and most of the gasoline pool has 10% ethanol or will soon. Just the ethanol we are already blending should be enough to stabilize the fuel.
There is also good information here:
Enleanment may be the most formidable problem i the total alcohol content rises about 10% or even in 5% ethanol/5% methanol blends; methanol has less heating value than ethanol and like to run richer. It would seem new marine engines and outboards will need to become flex-fuel, just like cars. I expect materials compatibility issues as well, as methanol is more corrosive than ethanol, but that may be solvable with corrosion inhibitors; that technology has also improved.
I think it's quite possible we'll be seeing methanol/ethanol blends used to fulfill the EPA regulatory mandate. When? I'm sure it will be some time, but it's not to soon to look into the challenges.
- Introduction to Sail Delmarva
- Site Map
- Anti-Chafe Gear
- Marine Winterizing Primer
- Diesel and Biocides
- Man-Overboard Recovery and Climbing Gear
- Silica Gel Vent Filters to Keep Gasoline and Diesel Dry
- Solar Panels
- Holding Tank Odors vs. Carbon Vent Filters
- My Other Blog (Chesapeake Gunkholing and Kayaks)
- The Purpose of Work
- The Book Store
- Book Questions and Comments
- Practical Sailor Magazine
- PDQ 32/34 Shoal Survivor--Under Contract