Growing global demand for methanol, which is increasingly being embraced as a environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, bodes well for Salalah Methanol Company’s (SMC) emergence as a key player in the international methanol industry, while also positioning the wholly Omani government-owned company to play an important role in helping the Sultanate achieve its goal to see at least 30 per cent of domestic electricity supply coming from renewable and alternative energy resources by 2030.
Prospects for SMC to evolve into a key player was showcased during a high profile seminar on the theme, ‘Methanol Applications for Sustainability’ which discussed a range of energy issues, highlighting in particular the potential for using methanol as a viable clean alternative to fossil fuel and many other sources in which lot of carbon emission is involved. SMC organised the seminar at Millennium Resort Salalah in association with the Methanol Institute (MI), which is a global trade association for the methanol industry.
The event was held under the auspices of Shaikh Muhanna bin Salim al Lamki, Deputy Governor of Dhofar, senior government officials and national and international energy experts.
The experts made a strong point in favour of methanol and said the global demand for methanol was set to expand. In his opening speech Mohammed Hamed al Hashmi, General Manager Operations and in-charge of Ammonia Project at SMC, said an amazing world of opportunities associated with methanol use was looming on the horizon.
“From fuel blending and new and emerging technologies such as methanol fuel cells and marine fuel, methanol’s significant importance as basic chemical feedstock and alternative energy resource wield great importance,” he said.
He lauded achievements of the SMC, which started its commercial operations in May 2010 and achieved the production capacity of 1 million tonnes every year. It achieved a milestone production of 10 million tonnes in June this year.
Christopher Chatterton, COO of Methanol Institute, said methanol is becoming quite an interesting molecule with significant clean green properties “and as such we are finding that methanol is being put into various applications.” The speakers who deliberated on methanol applications, energy security and sustainability included, Tim Chan, Manager Government Relations and Business Development at MI; Dr Amer al Hinai, Associate Professor and Director, Sultan Qaboos University; Dr Gaetano Iaquaniello, Chairman, NextChem Srl; Saleem Alavi, President Sea Commerce Consultants; Kim Aasberg Petersen of Haldor Topsoe; and Wei Anli, who represented China Internal Combustion Engine Industry Association.
Tim Chan stressed on emerging methanol economies and said that demand for methanol was growing globally, China being a leader in consumption and production. He cited some case studies of China, Italy, India, and Iceland and UK where methanol is being used either as fuel blend or to support energy requirements in land transport, marine fuel, industrial boilers, fuel cells and cooking stoves.
Dr Amer al Hinai focused on ‘Energy security and sustainability in Oman’. He also did an evaluation of utilising methanol fuel for electricity generation in Oman in terms of its application in rural areas and remote locations.
Counting its advantages he said, “It can maximise the benefits and bring added value to the locally produced methanol and contribute to fulfil the country’s commitment to reducing CO2 emission, improve the energy efficiency by promoting methanol fuel instead of conventional diesel particularly in remote areas.” Dr Gaetano Iaquaniello gave an interesting presentation on ‘Waste-to-methanol, a new approach in dealing with MSW disposal’. He said municipal solid waste (MSW) could be converted into methanol and put stress on the fact that “It is possible to make methanol into an existing natural gas based methanol plant (hybrid scheme).”