Methanol is a colorless alcohol, hygroscopic and completely miscible with water, but much lighter (specific gravity 0.8). It is a good solvent, but very toxic and extremely flammable. This simple single carbon alcohol is a volatile solvent and a light fuel.
PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS: PROPERTIES TYPICAL VALUES UNITS TEST METHODS
Molecular Weight 32.04 g/mol
Vapor pressure @ 20°C 0 – 128 kg/cm2
Boiling Point 64.5 (°C)
Melting / Freezing Point -97.5 (°C)
Net heating value 1883 million BTU/Ton
Vapor Density 1 At 15°C(air=1.0)
Purity 99.85 min Wt.% ASTM E-346
Water 0.1 max Wt.% ASTM E-203
Acidity (acetic acid as basis) 0.003 max Wt.% ASTM D-1613
Appearance & hydrocarbons Free of opalescence, suspended
Matter & sediment Wt.% Visual
Carbonizable Substances, color not darker than Color Standard
No. 5 of ASTM D 1209
Platinum Cobalt Scale - ASTM E-346
Odor Characteristic, non-residual - ASTM D-1296
Distillation range not more than 1°C and
Include 64.4°C +/- 0.1°C at 760mm Hg. ASTM D-1078
Specific Gravity (20°C/20°C) 0.7928 max TBC ASTM D-4052
Non-volatile content 0.001 max GM/100ml ASTM D-1353
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Methanol also known as methyl alcohol among others, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH (often abbreviated MeOH). Methanol acquired the name "wood alcohol" because it was once produced chiefly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. Today, industrial methanol is produced in a catalytic process directly from carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. Methanol is the simplest alcohol, being only a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group. It is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to that of ethanol (drinking alcohol). However, unlike ethanol, methanol is highly toxic and unfit for consumption. At room temperature, it is a polar liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol. It is also used for producing biodiesel via transesterification reaction.
Methanol is used primarily as a feedstock for the manufacture of chemicals, and as a fuel for specialized vehicles. As mentioned above, it is a common de-naturing agent. As a common laboratory solvent, is especially useful for HPLC, UV/VIS spectroscopy, and LCMS due to its low UV cutoff.
Methanol is primarily used in making other chemicals. About 40% of methanol is converted to formaldehyde, and from there into products as diverse as plastics, plywood, paints, explosives, and permanent press textiles.
Condensation of methanol molecules to produce hydrocarbon chains and even aromatic systems has been demonstrated with loss of water, carbon monoxide, and/or carbon dioxide (loss of oxygen is prohibited on thermodynamic grounds). As early as 1880, an aromatisation reaction which generated hexamethylbenzene as a minor product with a mixture of mostly aliphatic hydrocarbons directly from methanol, using zinc chloride as catalyst, had been demonstrated. At 283 °C, the melting point of ZnCl2, the idealised reaction for the production of hexamethylbenzene has a ΔG of −261 kcal mol−1.15 CH3OH → C6(CH3)6 + 3 CH4 + 15 H2O
In the early 1970s, a process was developed by Mobil for producing gasoline fuel for vehicles. One such industrial facility was built at Motunui in New Zealand in the 1980s. In the 1990s, large amounts of methanol were used in the United States to produce the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). While MTBE is no longer marketed in the U.S., it is still widely used in other parts of the world. Methanol (or less commonly, ethanol) is a component in the transesterification of triglycerides for production of biodiesel. Other chemical derivatives of methanol include dimethyl ether (DME), which has replaced chlorofluorocarbons as an aerosol spray propellant, and acetic acid. Dimethyl ether can be blended with liquified petroleum gas (LPG) for home heating and cooking, and can be used as a replacement for transportation diesel fuel. Of high interest to the petrochemical marketplace, methanol is an important ingredient in new and lower-cost methods for producing propylene, which is much in demand. Such methods include methanol-to-olefins (MTO), methanol-to-propylene (MTO/MTP), metathesis, propane dehydrogenation (PDH), high severity FCC, and olefins cracking. The market for proponyl became tight when the ethane prices fell in the US with the exploration of shale gas reserves. The low priced ethylene produced from this raw material has given chemical producers in North America a feedstock advantage. Such change has put naphtha-fed steam crackers at a disadvantageous position, with many of them shutting down or revamping to use ethane as feedstock. Nevertheless, the propylene output rates from ethane-fed crackers are negligible.
Fuel for vehicles
Main articles: Methanol fuel and methanol economy, Methanol is occasionally used to fuel internal combustion engines. Pure methanol is required by rule to be used in Champcars, Monster Trucks, USAC sprint cars (as well as midgets, modifieds, etc.), and other dirt track series, such as World of Outlaws, and Motorcycle Speedway, mainly because, in the event of an accident, methanol does not produce an opaque cloud of smoke. Since the late 1940s, Methanol is also used as the primary fuel ingredient in the powerplants for radio control, control line, free flight airplanes, cars and trucks; such engines use a platinum filament glow plug that ignites the methanol vapor through a catalytic reaction. Drag racers, mud racers, and heavily modified tractor pullers also use methanol as the primary fuel source. Methanol is required with a supercharged engine in a Top Alcohol Dragster and, until the end of the 2006 season, all vehicles in the Indianapolis 500 had to run on methanol. As a fuel for mud racers, methanol mixed with gasoline and nitrous oxide produces more power than gasoline and nitrous oxide alone.
Methanol burns in oxygen, including open air, forming carbon dioxide and water:
2 CH3OH + 3 O2 → 2 CO2 + 4 H2O
One problem with high concentrations of methanol in fuel is that alcohols corrode some metals, particularly aluminium. An acid, albeit weak, methanol attacks the oxide coating that normally protects the aluminium from corrosion:
6 CH3OH + Al2O3 → 2 Al(OCH3)3 + 3 H2O
The resulting methoxide salts are soluble in methanol, resulting in a clean aluminium surface, which is readily oxidized by dissolved oxygen. Also, the methanol can act as an oxidizer:
6 CH3OH + 2 Al → 2 Al(OCH3)3 + 3 H2
This reciprocal process effectively fuels corrosion until either the metal is eaten away or the concentration of CH3OH is negligible. Methanol's corrosivity has been addressed with methanol-compatible materials and fuel additives that serve as corrosion inhibitors.
Organic methanol, produced from wood or other organic materials (bioalcohol), has been suggested as a renewable alternative to petroleum-based hydrocarbons. Low levels of methanol can be used in existing vehicles with the addition of cosolvents and corrosion inhibitors.
Methanol fuel has been proposed for ground transportation. The chief advantage of a methanol economy is that it could be adapted to gasoline internal combustion engines with minimum modification to the engines and to the infrastructure that delivers and stores liquid fuel.
Safety in automotive fuels
Pure methanol has been used in open wheel auto racing since the mid-1960s. Unlike petroleum fires, methanol fires can be extinguished with plain water. A methanol-based fire burns invisibly, unlike gasoline, which burns with a visible flame. If a fire occurs on the track, there is no flame or smoke to obstruct the view of fast approaching drivers, but this can also delay visual detection of the fire and the initiation of fire suppression. The decision to permanently switch to methanol in American IndyCar racing was a result of the devastating crash and explosion at the 1964 Indianapolis 500, which killed drivers Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald. In 2007 IndyCars switched from methanol to ethanol.
The European Fuel Quality Directive allows up to 3% methanol with an equal amount of cosolvent to be blended with gasoline sold in Europe. China uses more than one billion gallons of methanol per year as a transportation fuel in low level blends for conventional vehicles and high level blends in vehicles designed for methanol fuels.
In the US, the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011 was introduced in the US Congress to encourage car manufacturers to build cars capable of using methanol, gasoline, or ethanol fuels. The bill is being championed by the Open Fuel Standard Coalition.
Production of synthesis gas
Stoichiometry for methanol production of syngas requires the ratio of H2 / CO to equal 2. The partial oxidation process yields a ratio of 2, and the steam reforming process yields a ratio of 3. The H2 / CO ratio can be lowered to some extent by the reverse water-gas shift reaction,
CO2 + H2 → CO + H2O,
to provide the appropriate stoichiometry for methanol synthesis.
Methanol is useful as an energy carrier because it is easier to store than hydrogen and burns cleaner than fossil fuels. Methanol is readily biodegradable in both aerobic (oxygen present) and anaerobic (oxygen absent) environments. Methanol will not persist in the environment. The half-life for methanol in groundwater is just one to seven days, while many common gasoline components have half-lives in the hundreds of days (such as benzene at 10–730 days). Since methanol is miscible with water and biodegradable, it is unlikely to accumulate in groundwater, surface water, air or soil.
Methanol is a traditional denaturant for ethanol, the product being known as "denatured alcohol" or "methylated spirit". This was commonly used during the Prohibition to discourage consumption of bootlegged liquor, and ended up causing several deaths.
Methanol is used as a solvent and as an antifreeze in pipelines and windshield washer fluid.
In some wastewater treatment plants, a small amount of methanol is added to wastewater to provide a carbon food source for the denitrifying bacteria, which convert nitrates to nitrogen gas and reduce the nitrification of sensitive aquifers.
During World War II, methanol was used as a fuel in several German military rocket designs, under the name M-Stoff, and in a roughly 50/50 mixture with hydrazine, known as C-Stoff.
Methanol was used as an automobile coolant antifreeze in the early 1900s.
Methanol is used as a destaining agent in polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.
Direct-methanol fuel cells are unique in their low temperature, atmospheric pressure operation, allowing them to be miniaturized to an unprecedented degree. This, combined with the relatively easy and safe storage and handling of methanol, may open the possibility of fuel cell-powered consumer electronics, such as laptop computers and mobile phones.
Methanol is also a widely used fuel in camping and boating stoves. Methanol burns well in an unpressurized burner, so alcohol stoves are often very simple, sometimes little more than a cup to hold fuel. This lack of complexity makes them a favorite of hikers who spend extended time in the wilderness. Similarly, the alcohol can be gelled to reduce risk of leaking or spilling, as with the brand "Sterno".
Methanol is mixed with water and injected into high performance diesel and gasoline engines for an increase of power and a decrease in intake air temperature in a process known as water methanol injection.
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