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Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy



Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy

George A. Olah, Alain Goeppert, G. K. Surya Prakash

ISBN: 978-3-527-60835-5 August 2006 304 Pages


In this masterpiece, the renowned chemistry Nobel Laureate, George A. Olah and his colleagues discuss in a clear and readily accessible manner the use of methanol as a viable alternative to our diminishing fossil fuel resources. They look at the pros and cons of our current main energy sources, namely oil and natural gas, and varied renewable energies, and new ways to overcome obstacles.
Following an introduction, Olah, Goeppert and Prakash look at the interrelation of fuels and energy, and at the extent of our non-renewable fossil fuel resources. Despite the diminishing reserve and global warming, the authors point out the continuing need for hydrocarbons and their products. They also discuss the envisioned hydrogen economy and its significant shortcomings. The main section then focuses on the methanol economy, including the conversion carbon dioxide from industrial exhausts (such as flue gases from fossil fuel burning power plants) and carbon dioxide contained in the atmoshere into convenient liquid methanol for fuel uses (notably in fuel cells) and as a raw material for hydrocarbons. The book is rounded off with a glimpse into the future.
A forward-looking and inspiring work regarding the major challenges of future energy and environmental problems.
Chapter 1: Introduction.

Chapter 2: Coal in the Industrial Revolution, and Beyond.

Chapter 3: History of Oil and Natural Gas.

Oil Extraction and Exploration.

Natural Gas.

Chapter 4: Fossil Fuel Resources and Uses.



Tar Sands.

Oil Shale.

Natural Gas.

Coalbed Methane.

Tight Sands and Shales.

Methane Hydrates.


Chapter 5: Diminishing Oil and Gas Reserves.

Chapter 6: The Continuing Need for Hydrocarbons and their Products.

Fractional Distillation.

Thermal Cracking.

Chapter 7: Fossil Fuels and Climate Change.


Chapter 8: Renewable Energy Sources and Atomic Energy.


Geothermal Energy.

Wind Energy.

Solar Energy: Photovoltaic and Thermal.

Electricity from Photovoltaic Conversion.

Solar Thermal Power for Electricity Production.

Electric Power from Saline Solar Ponds.

Solar Thermal Energy for Heating.

Economic Limitations of Solar Energy.

Biomass Energy.

Electricity from Biomass.

Liquid Biofuels.

Ocean Energy: Thermal, Tidal, and Wave Power.

Tidal Energy.


Ocean Thermal Energy.

Nuclear Energy.

Energy from Nuclear Fission Reactions.

Breeder Reactors.

The Need for Nuclear Power.



Radiation Hazards.

Nuclear Byproducts and Waste.


Nuclear Power: An Energy Source for the Future.

Nuclear Fusion.

Future Outlook.

Chapter 9: The Hydrogen Economy and its Limitations.

The Discovery and Properties of Hydrogen.

The Development of Hydrogen Energy.

The Production and Uses of Hydrogen.

Hydrogen from Fossil Fuels.

Hydrogen from Biomass.

Photobiological Water Cleavage.

Water Electrolysis.

Hydrogen Production Using Nuclear Energy.

The Challenge of Hydrogen Storage.

Liquid Hydrogen.

Compressed Hydrogen.

Metal Hydrides and Solid Absorbents.

Other Means of Hydrogen Storage.

Hydrogen: Centralized or Decentralized Distribution?

Safety of Hydrogen.

Hydrogen in Transportation.

Fuel Cells.


Fuel Cell Efficiency.

Hydrogen-Based Fuel Cells.

PEM Fuel Cells for Transportation.

Regenerative Fuel Cells.


Chapter 10: The “Methanol Economy”: General Aspects.

Chapter 11: Methanol as a Fuel and Energy Carrier.

Properties and Historical Background.

Present Uses of Methanol.

Use of Methanol and Dimethyl Ether as Transportation Fuels.

Alcohol as a Transportation Fuel in the Past.

Methanol as Fuel in Internal Combustion Engines (ICE).

Methanol and Dimethyl Ether as Diesel Fuels Substitute in Compression Ignition Engines.

Biodiesel Fuel.

Advanced Methanol-Powered Vehicles.

Hydrogen for Fuel Cells from Methanol Reforming.

Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (DMFC).

Fuel Cells Based on Other Fuels and Biofuel Cells.

Regenerative Fuel Cell.

Methanol for Static Power and Heat Generation.

Methanol Storage and Distribution.

Methanol Price.

Methanol Safety.

Emissions from Methanol-Powered Vehicles.

Methanol and the Environment.

Methanol and Issues of Climate Change.

Chapter 12: Production of Methanol from Syn-Gas to Carbon Dioxide.

Methanol from Fossil Fuels.

Production via Syn-Gas.

Syn-Gas from Natural Gas.

Methane Steam Reforming.

Partial Oxidation of Methane.

Autothermal Reforming and Combination of Steam Reforming and Partial Oxidation.

Syn-Gas from CO2 Reforming.

Syn-Gas from Petroleum and Higher Hydrocarbons.

Syn-Gas from Coal.

Economics of Syn-Gas Generation.

Methanol through Methyl Formate.

Methanol from Methane Without Syn-Gas.

Selective Oxidation of Methane to Methanol.

Catalytic Gas-Phase Oxidation of Methane.

Liquid-Phase Oxidation of Methane to Methanol.

Methanol Production through Mono-Halogenated Methanes.

Microbial or Photochemical Conversion of Methane to Methanol.

Methanol from Biomass.

Methanol from Biogas.


Water Plants.


Methanol from Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon Dioxide from Industrial Flue Gases.

Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere.

Chapter 13: Methanol-Based Chemicals, Synthetic Hydrocarbons and Materials.

Methanol-Based Chemical Products and Materials.

Methanol Conversion to Olefins and Synthetic Hydrocarbons.

Methanol to Olefin (MTO) Process.

Methanol to Gasoline (MTG) Process.

Methanol-Based Proteins.


Chapter 14: Future Perspectives.

The “Methanol Economy” and its Advantages.

Further Reading and Information.



"A very well written standard work, related to the field of the properties, production, and present and future use of methanol as a direct or indirect energy source." (International Journal of Environment and Pollution, April 2009)

"…a well-written review of the energy situation in the global context…a valuable addition to the literature." (CHOICE, October 2006)

"...exceptionally clear and engaging. For anyone interested in the subjects of energy, fossil fuels, and energy solutions, this book will be a valuable resource...worth reading and considering in detail." (Chemical & Engineering News, October 2, 2006)

"..I am pleased to recommend most enthusiastically this inexpensive, forward-looking, and inspiring book to anyone concerned with the major challenge of future energy and environmental problems--a central issue for our society." (The Chemical Educator, May/June 2006)