Methanol in your fuel?

The trend for Fuel Economy and alternative, environmentally-friendly fuels is here to stay.

Fuel industry’s search for ‘green’ fuels is on the go. One of the candidates is Methanol, which can be used up to 3% in petrol in the European Union. Methanol is also a popular racing fuel, due to its high octane rating.

Methanol may be made from natural gas or from renewable resources, like biomass. Its advantages as a ‘green’ fuel are thus clear. But are there any drawbacks?

Methanol is less volatile than gasoline, so engine starting in cold weather is more difficult. Methanol is toxic. On top of that, its combustion gives extra water and increases the risk of acid formation. This can cause wear of valves, valve seats and the cylinder.

Methanol is hygroscopic: it will absorb water vapor directly from the atmosphere. Because absorbed water dilutes the fuel value of the methanol and may cause phase separation of methanol-gasoline blends, containers of methanol fuels must be kept tightly sealed.

In general, ethanol is less toxic and has higher energy density, although methanol is less expensive to produce sustainably. For optimizing engine performance, fuel availability, toxicity, etc. a blend of ethanol, methanol and petroleum is likely to be preferable. Using methanol as a fuel in spark-ignition engines can offer an increased thermal efficiency and increased power output (as compared to gasoline) due to its high octane rating ]and high heat of vaporization.

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