Opportunity for the Militaries in NATO Countries to Substantially Reduce Their Carbon Emissions

As a result of an extremely large offshore wind resource available on several coastal areas of NATO countries, a growing off-shore wind-power industry, new technologies to produce green as well as utilize methanol, and the growth of climate finance including Green Bonds, an opportunity has emerged for the militaries of NATO member countries to substantially reduce their respective carbon footprint.  Given below is an outline of this opportunity:

A. The Methanol Market 

The existing methanol market is very large and rapidly growing.  For example, the global market of methanol was valued at over 37 billion US dollars in 2021 and is expected to reach nearly 62 billion US dollars by 2030.  Currently, most of this methanol is produced from natural gas (grey methanol) or coal (black methanol), which generates considerable CO2 emissions when this methanol is produced.  There are now several technologies available to produce lower carbon intensity methanol including blue methanol (surplus carbon is captured as CO2), turquoise methanol (surplus carbon is converted to solid carbon), and renewable (green) methanol.  In addition, there are several new and existing technologies to utilize this methanol effectively.  For example, there is now a technology that enables methanol to provide the energy needed to recharge millions of electric cars via innovative EV charging stations, which are powered by methanol.  To view information about this type of EV charging station, visit: Affordable and efficient hydrogen production (from methanol) on-site and on-demand Energy.

There are existing technologies available to make green methanol from renewable energy and the demand for this type of low-carbon fuel is growing rapidly.  For example, the large shipping company, A.P. Moller – Maersk is developing strategic partnerships across the globe to scale green methanol production to 730,000 tonnes/year by end of 2025.  One of the reasons why this shipping company is seeking to purchase so much green methanol is that it is relatively low cost for them to modify the engines in their ships to consume methanol instead of other hydrocarbon-based fuels.

To view some reports about the renewable (green) methanol market, visit: 

a) Renewable Methanol Report by Methanol.org

b) IRENA: Innovation Outlook: Renewable Methanol, January 2021:

“Methanol is essential for the chemical industry and represents an emerging fuel for a wide range of uses. Although largely produced from fossil fuels, it can also be made from sustainable, renewable-based energy sources.
Around 98 million tonnes (Mt) are produced per annum, nearly all of which is produced from fossil fuels (either natural gas or coal). • The life-cycle emissions from current methanol production and use are around 0.3 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2 per annum (about 10% of total chemical sector emissions). • Methanol production has nearly doubled in the past decade, with a large share of that growth being in China. Under current trends, production could rise to 500 Mt per annum by 2050, releasing 1.5 Gt CO2 per annum if solely sourced from fossil fuels. • The cost of producing fossil fuel-based methanol is in the range of USD 100-250 per tonne (t).”

c) Renewable Methanol by Blue Technologies, BLUE AALBORG, Denmark

B. Methanol Production Technologies:

Given below is a some existing and new methanol production technologies:

1) A leading methanol production equipment supplier (Air Liquide)

a) Methanol from Natural Gas: Air Liquide’s Lurgi™ Megamethanol
b) Methanol from CO2: Air Liquide’s CO₂ to Methanol

2) Existing renewable methanol production processes:

a) Methanol from CO2 by Air Liquide: Air Liquide’s CO₂ to Methanol & Linde Engineering Methanol Plant
b) Methanol plant by Kapsom: Kapsom Methanol Plant
c) Carbon Recycling International Methanol from CO2: CRI Methanol from CO2 plant.  Report about new commercial methanol from CO2 plant.
d) Thyssenkrupp (Essen, Germany) is harnessing excess renewable energy to obtain clean hydrogen from electrolysis and sourcing excess CO2 from industrial sources to create renewable methanol.
e) Next Methanol Inc., Shakespeare, Ontario, which uses a process developed by Ultra Clean Ecolene Inc., Kincardine, ON
f) REIntegrate, Denmark – Article: Circle K Danmark announces green e-methanol off-take deal with REintegrate, 27 November 2020
g) For a list of companies making renewable methanol, see page 13 of Renewable Methanol Report by Methanol.org.

3) Emerging Methanol Production Processes from Flue Gas.  There are multiple new technologies that have emerged to produce green methanol more cost-effectively.  Given below are two examples:

a) US Department of Energy-funded Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has developed a new carbon capture solvent and process to produce methanol, which they claim to be the “Least Costly Carbon Capture System to Date”.  On March 10, 2023, PNNL hosted a detailed webinar about this technology.  To view the recording of this webinar, visit: Integrated Carbon Capture and Conversion: A Roadmap for Economically Capturing and Recycling CO2 (https://youtu.be/J0DUP-mPDTo ).

b) Process and catalyst to produce methanol from natural gas and CO2 by the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology (ACCT) Centre.

c) A new low-cost direct air capture (DAC) process developed by Prof. Arup K. SenGupta from Lehigh University that be combined with existing renewable methanol production processes outlined above to produce green methanol.  To view an article about it, visit: Path to net-zero carbon capture and storage may lead to ocean”.  

C. Methanol Toxicity

According to this Wiki page about methanol fuel, the effective toxicity [of methanol] is no worse than those of benzene or gasoline, and methanol poisoning is far easier to treat successfully. Methanol occurs naturally in the human body but is poisonous in high concentrations. The human body has the capability of metabolizing and dealing with small amounts of methanol safely, such as from certain artificial sweeteners or fruit, temporarily resulting in toxic byproducts in the blood stream like formic acid prior to excretion, but humans have no natural means of dealing with most of what’s in a complex, liquid hydrocarbon like gasoline. Ingestion of 10 ml, however, can cause blindness and 60-100 ml can be fatal if the condition is untreated. Like many volatile chemicals, including ethanol and gasoline, methanol can cause skin, eye, and lung effects if exposed to substantial quantities. Persons chronically exposed to such external quantities are at risk of long-term systemic health effects similar to low-grade methanol poisoning if left untreated. Unlike benzene-family fuels (eg. gasoline), methanol will rapidly and non-toxically biodegrade with no long-term harm to the environment as long as it is sufficiently diluted.

D. Combining Complementary Technologies to Reduce Cost of of Methanol Production 

Considerable cost savings can be realized by integrating complementary technologies.  For example, methanol can be produced in a combined facility that includes a biomass power plant, renewable energy farms, an energy storage system and a methanol production system.   When surplus electricity is available, hydrogen is produced at a rate fast enough to consume all this surplus electricity, which is then consumed over time to produce methanol.  Given below is a simplified schematic of this type of facility:

E. Large Wind Resource Available to Power Methanol Production

There is an extremely large offshore wind energy resource available to generate electricity.  For example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that the maximum potential for offshore wind production is more than 120,000 gigawatts, or 11 times the projected global electricity demand in 2040.  At the same time, there are plans underway to build very-large offshore wind-farms in several coastal areas including the US east coast.  Given below are some articles about these plans on the US east coast:

a) McKinsey: Scaling the US East Coast offshore wind industry to 20 gigawatts and beyond, April 2019
b) Wikipage: List of offshore wind farms in the United States
c) Forbes: Biden Partners With East Coast Governors To Accelerate Offshore Wind—Here’s How It Fits Into His Climat Plan, Jun 23, 2022

There is a considerable amount of power generated from wind turbines at off-peak times that cannot be used by the grid but can be used to produce hydrogen, which can then be utilized to produce methanol.

F.  Producing Low-Cost Hydrogen Needed for Methanol Production

There are new technologies enabling offshore wind farms and seawater to produce low-cost hydrogen needed to power the CO2 to methanol process.  For example, see below:

a) Clean energy breakthrough produces hydrogen from sea water for cheap – A low-cost catalyst, cobalt oxide coated with chromium oxide, was used by Jijo Malayil, Feb 02, 2023
b) Seawater split to produce green hydrogen by Jessica Stanley, University of Adelaide, Feb. 1, 2023

G.  Funding Green Methanol Production on a Large-Scale with Green Bonds

To implement green methanol production on a very large-scale, many substantial facilities utilizing these technologies will need to be funded.  Fortunately, a pathway has emerged to help project developers obtain this funding.  Prior to a substantial ($50m+) project getting funded, it can be certified as “Green Bond” eligible.  After this facility becomes operational, it can be re-financed with a Green Bond that institutional investors can purchase. This enables the original investors to receive their capital back and build their next facility, which makes investing in this type of project much more attractive.  In this way, large-scale climate action can be accelerated with private-sector funding instead of government funding.

According to the ClimateBonds Initiative, over $500 billion in Green (Climate) Bonds were issued in 2021.  This organization is now leading an initiative to increase this amount to $5 trillion in Green Bonds by 2025.  There is a large pool of buyers of Green Bonds in the global financial system. For example, the members of The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which includes firms that collectively have over US$130 trillion under management, are likely buyers of this type of bond.

H. Long-term Supply Contracts to Enable Construction of Green Methanol Facilities

Military organizations including the US Military can accelerate the production of green methanol by determining how much methanol it can consume instead of other hydrocarbon fuels and then issue tenders for the long-term supply of this fuel.  After the normal tendering and supplier evaluation process, long-term fuel-supply contracts can then be signed with suppliers that have met all the requirements specified in these tenders.  These contracts will enable green methanol producers to obtain bridge-financing to build production facilities and then re-finance these facilities with green bonds.  If was done, this would accelerate the growth of the green methanol industry and lead to lower prices for this type of fuel.

I. Proposed Briefing about the Green Methanol Opportunity

If a NATO-member military organization is interested in this opportunity, I recommend that a briefing be provided to the people in this organization who are focused on reducing its carbon footprint.  This briefly could include the following presenters:

1) The Methanol Institute – Overview of the methanol market and opportunity to produce green methanol on a  large-scale.
2) The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and/or the American Clean Power Association – Amount of wind energy available for green methanol production.
3) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) – Overview of technologies to produce green methanol.
4) Integrated ClimateTech, Inc. (iClimateTech) – Integrating complementary technologies to minimize cost and maximize climate impact relating to methanal production.
5) Man Energy Solutions or company with similar expertise – How to upgrade existing hydrocarbon-fueled engines to run on methanol.

J. Additional Information

To view some additional information about methanol-related technologies, visit: Methanol & Related Information.

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