METHANOL ECONOMY IN INDIA
GS 3, MAINS: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
NECESSITY OF A METHANOL ECONOMY:
• India needs around 2900 cr litres of petrol and 9000 cr litres of diesel per year currently,
the 6th highest consumer in the world and will double consumption and become 3rd
largest consumer by 2030. Our import bill on account of crude stands at almost 6 lac
• Hydrocarbon Fuels have also adversely affected the environment with Green House Gas
Emissions (GHG). India is the third highest energy related carbon dioxide emitter country in
the world. Almost 30% pollution in cities like Delhi is from automobiles and the growing
number of automobiles on the road will further worsen the pollution.
• The recent situation is alarming and time has come for the Govt to present a
comprehensive road map to reduce the urban pollution in this country and stop pollution
related deaths completely.
• Hon’ble Prime Minister has set a goal for our Country to reduce the import bill by 10% by
the year 2022. Crude oil imports drain our foreign exchange, putting enormous pressure on
our currency & thereby weakening our bargaining power with the rest of the world.
• Methanol is a clean burning drop in fuel which can replace both petrol & diesel in
transportation & LPG, Wood, Kerosene in cooking fuel. It can also replace diesel in
Railways, Marine Sector, Gensets, Power Generation and Methanol based reformers could
be the ideal compliment to Hybrid and Electric Mobility. Methanol Economy is the ‘Bridge’
to the dream of a complete “Hydrogen based fuel systems”.
• Methanol burns efficiently in all internal combustion engines, produces no particulate
matter, no soot, almost nil SOx and NOx emissions (Near Zero Pollution). The gaseous
version of Methanol – DME can blend with LPG and can be excellent substitute for diesel in
Large buses and trucks.
• Methanol can be produced from Natural Gas, Indian High Ash Coal, Bio-mass, MSW,
stranded and flared gases.
• Renewable Methanol by capturing C02 back from the atmosphere is becoming very
popular and is seen by the world as the “Enduring Energy Solution known to Mankind”.
Methanol is a significant solution to the burning problem of Urban pollution worldwide.
WHAT INDIA CAN DO?
• India has an installed Methanol Production capacity of 2 MT per annum. As per the plan
prepared by NITI Aayog, using Indian High Ash coal, Stranded gas, and Biomass can produce
20 MT of methanol annually by 2025. India, with 125 Billion Tonnes of proven Coal
reserves and 500 million tones of Biomass generated every year & the huge quantities of
Stranded & Flared gases has a huge potential for ensuring energy security based on
alternate feedstock and fuels.
• NITI Aaayog has drawn out a road map to substitute 10% of Crude imports by 2030, by
Methanol alone. This requires approximately 30 MT of Methanol. Methanol & DME are
substantially cheaper than Petrol and Diesel and India can look to reduce its fuel bill 30% by
NITI AAYOG’S ROAD MAP FOR METHANOL ECONOMY COMPRISES:
• Production of methanol from Indian high ash coal from indigenous Technology, in Large
quantities and adopting regional production strategies and produce Methanol in large
quantities @ Rs. 19 a litre. India will adopt C02 capturing technology to make the use of
coal fully environment friendly and our commitments to COP21.
• Bio-mass, Stranded Gas & MSW for methanol production. Almost 40% of Methanol
Production can be through these feed stocks.
• Utilization of methanol as well as DME in transportation – rail, road, marine and defence.
Industrial Boilers, Diesel Gensets & Power generation & Mobile towers are other
• Utilization of methanol and DME as domestic cooking fuel – cook stoves. LPG – DME
• Utilization of methanol in fuel cell applications in Marine, Gensets and Transportation.
OTHER COMMERCIAL ADVANTAGES OF METHANOL:
• Methanol Benefits in Transportation sector: With very little modifications to existing
engines (vehicles) and fuel distribution infrastructure, 15% of all vehicle fuels can be
converted to Methanol & Di Methyl Ether (DME). Global engine manufactures like Volvo,
caterpillar, Mercedes and in collaboration with Indian players can manufacture these
engines under the Make in India and will result in big FDI investments. The development of
this sector will bring jobs in the engineering sector.
• Methanol Benefits in Marine Sector: Worldwide due to emission regulations being
implemented stringently by IMO (International Maritime Organisation), marine sector is
shifting to Methanol as fuel of choice. Being very efficient in liquid form and practically
generating no SOx or NOx, methanol is much cheaper than LNG and Bunker / Heavy Oil.
India can convert several vessels in the Port sector and various vessels owned by
government entities to operate on methanol. This opportunity will also be used to
standardise all the marine regulations both sea and inland in parity with International
Maritime Organization rules and with global standards.
• Methanol in Railways: Indian Railways consumes about 3 billion litres a year and the annual
diesel bill is in excess of Rs. 15000 Crores. A Methanol locomotive prototype is being
implemented by Indian Railways under a grant by Department of Science & Technology and
once all 6000 diesel engines are converted to methanol (at very minimal cost of less than 1
crore a engine), the annual diesel bill can be reduced by 50%. Methanol conversion
program in railways is complimentary to the goals of electrification in Railways.
• Methanol & DME in Cooking fuel program: The cooking fuel program of Methanol liquid
fuel and LPG-DME blending is a low hanging fruit for India. A 20% blending program with
LPG, without any infrastructure modifications would result in a immediate savings of
Rs.6000 Crores a year. Lakhs of rural women will cook healthy and Methanol supplied in
canisters would ensure fuel supply in the remotest part of North East and Himalayas.
• Methanol fuel can result in great environmental benefits and can be the answer to the
burning Urban pollution issue.
• At least 20% diesel consumption can be reduced in next 5-7 years and will result in a
savings of Rs 26000 Crores annually.
• Rs. 6000 Crores can be annually saved from reduced bill in LPG in the next 3 years itself.
• The Methanol blending program with Gasoline will further reduce our fuel bill by at least Rs
5000 Crores annually in next 3 years.
• Make in India program will get a further boost by both producing fuel indigenously and
associated growth in automobile sector adding engineering jobs and also investments in
Methanol based industries (FDI and Indian).
UPSC PREVIOUS YEAR MAINS QUESTIONS:
• “Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is a sine qua non to achieve
Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).” Comment on the progress made in India in this regard.
(GS 3, 2018)
• To what factors can be the recent dramatic fall in equipment cost and tariff of solar energy be
attributed? What implications does the trend have for thermal power producers and related
industry? (GS 3, 2015)
• Should the pursuit of carbon credits and clean development mechanisms set up under UNFCCC
be maintained even though there has been a massive slide in the value of a carbon credit?
Discuss with respect to India’s energy needs for economic growth. (GS 3, 2014)
• Environmental Impact Assessment studies are increasingly undertaken before a project is
cleared by the Government. Discuss the environmental impacts of coal-fired thermal plants
located at coal pitheads. (GS 3, 2014)
• Write a note on India’s green energy corridor to alleviate the problem of conventional energy.
(GS 3, 2013)
• What is an FRP composite material? How are they manufactured? Discuss their application in
aviation and automobile industries. (GS 3, 2013)