Alternative car fuel mixtures have been talked about for years. Many gas stations in the US incorporate ethanol into their blends, all the way to fuel made from human and animal “poop”. More recently, there’s been biofuel made from recycled McDonald’s fast food cooking oils which flew their UAE fleet vehicles more than 800,000 miles!
Now methanol biofuels, made from natural gas and mixed with unleaded gasoline, are the subject of a test project being conducted in Israel by Dor Chemicals and Ten Petroleum at one of their gas stations in Haifa.
The fuel mixture contains 15% methanol, a simple form of alcohol and derived from liquified natural gas. According to Dor Chemical chemical engineers, methanol burns cleaner than ordinary gasoline and is also cheaper to produce.
In the cooperative agreement, with Ten Petroleum 10, ordinary cars of various types are being given the fuel mixture in order to determine how the engines will perform on the mixture, as opposed to gasoline. As part of the project, no adjustments or modifications have been made to the car engines. Another 3 cars will act as control vehicles and will run on ordinary gasoline.
Dani Ben-Ner, CEO of Ten Petroleum, says that if this initial test project is successful he will be happy to participate in a large test of 500 or more cars. “In the second stage of the pilot project, we will introduce methanol at all our gas stations. First in relatively low levels of 15 percent; but I believe that in the future also at higher levels,” he told the local Haaretz newspaper.
He believes that including 15 percent methanol in a mix with gasoline could save Israel $3.95 billion USD in imported oil and refined petroleum products, and save some $1.85 Billion in spending on gasoline. Cost savings to consumers are estimated to be from 5 to 7 percent over ordinary fuels. Now that Israel has a glut of natural gas, this could be a welcome move in the energy industry.
The only drawback is whether the methanol, which does not burn as efficiently as gasoline, will cause any form of long term damage to car engines. Scientists involved in the project estimate it will take several months to determine if burning this new fuel mixture will not cause undue engine wear due to having a lower energy output.
Biofuel mixtures known as “flex fuel” which contain ethanol and made from grain and sugars are already being used in countries like Brazil and the US. These fuels, which come from plants that derive energy from the sun via photosynthesis have been criticized by scientists like Hartmut Michel, who won a Nobel Prize in 1988 for his work on energy derived from photosynthesis in plants.
Despite this issue and due to the large amounts of natural gas reserves discovered in the eastern Mediterranean, Israel’s use of natural gas, either as methanol or liquified natural gas appears to be an excellent way to help provide that country’s energy needs with enough natural gas to burn for up to 150 years.
More articles on biofuels and natural gas:
McDonald’s Fleet Traveled 800,000 Miles on Recycled Biofuel
Israel’s Natural Gas Good to Burn for 150 Years if Handled Wisely
Biofuel From Plastic for This Young Egyptian Scientist from Alexandria
5 Brilliant Projects that Turn Poop into Power