The world is constantly in search of new and innovative ways to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and move towards clean energy sources. One such option that has gained increased attention in recent years is methanol.

Methanol is a light, versatile, colourless and flammable alcohol. It is a readily available chemical that can be produced from a variety of sources including natural gas, biomass and carbon dioxide. It is being considered as one of the potential alternative fuels for shipping as the sector continues its journey towards decarbonisation.  

In an internal combustion engine, methanol reacts with the oxygen in the air and creates carbon dioxide and water as well as heat/energy. Despite the carbon dioxide emitted, it is entirely possible to achieve net-zero carbon lifecycle emissions if the methanol is produced using biomass or renewably sourced hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

As a fuel, it has several potential benefits, including low emissions, low cost, and excellent energy density. In the “Fuel for thought” alternative fuels series, we explore the current state of methanol as a clean fuel, including its safety considerations, drivers for adoption, production and supply chain, and technology readiness. We will also examine the potential implications of widespread adoption of methanol as a clean fuel and its role in achieving a sustainable future.