German chemical company BASF announced that it has applied to patent a process to produce methanol without any greenhouse gas emissions.
Typically, methanol is made from syngas, which until now has been primarily obtained from natural gas via a combination of steam and autothermal reforming. Using special catalysts, this can then be turned into crude methanol, which can be further processed after purification. In the new BASF process, the syngas is generated by partial oxidation of natural gas, which does not cause any carbon dioxide emissions and has proven to be advantageous in a study jointly conducted with Linde Engineering. The subsequent process steps – methanol synthesis and distillation – can be carried out nearly unchanged.
“We are optimistic that our climate-friendly approach will better adapt methanol synthesis to the requirements of the 21st century,” said Maximilian Vicari, project manager, from BASF’s Intermediates division. “Nearly 100 years after the first industrial-scale production of this important basic chemical using BASF’s high-pressure process, we are now taking a leading role in writing the newest chapter in the history of methanol.”
Vicari expects it will be around 10 years before this new process is carried out in an industrial-scale plant.
The basic chemical methanol is an important starting material for many products in different BASF value chains. Derived products such as formaldehyde, acetic acid, and methylamines are very important in terms of volume. Other important derivatives include methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), methyl methacrylate, polyalcohols, and silicones. Methanol also serves as an energy supplier and can be used as a raw material for chemical conversion into other fuels or fuel additives.
The production processes of the most important basic chemicals are responsible for around 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the chemical industry. BASF experts are working intensely on new technologies to substantially reduce emissions in these processes. The company has bundled all of this work under the roof of its ambitious Carbon Management Program.