Use of methanol in power generation under study in Oman

The Sustainable Energy Research Centre (SERC) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) has embarked on a first-of-its-kind study of the potential use of methanol as a cost-competitive and cleaner-burning fuel alternative to diesel in the generation of electricity.

The initiative will go a long way in reducing Oman’s dependence on diesel-based power generation to meet the electricity needs of remote communities that are located far beyond the coverage of the country’s two main grids – the Main Interconnected System (MIS) covering the northern half of Oman and the Salalah System serving Dhofar Governorate.

Methanol as a fuel alternative to diesel has both cost benefits as well as environmental advantages, according to Dr Amer al Hinai (pictured), Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and the Director of the Sustainable Energy Research Centre at Sultan Qaboos University.

“Methanol is not only significantly cheaper than diesel, it is also not prone to fluctuating international prices that petroleum fuels like diesel are subject to.  More importantly, methanol produces fewer carbon emissions and almost none of the harmful NOX and SOX emissions associated with diesel burning.”

As part of the study, Dr Al Hinai and his team of researchers will examine the potential use of methanol fuel cells to generate electricity.  Here, the fuel cell will be used to convert the chemical energy of methanol into electrical energy.

Additionally, the study will explore the use of methanol as a fuel source in place of diesel in existing, but suitably modified, diesel-powered generators.

Yet another facet of the study will focus on the potential for green methanol production using renewable energy, such as solar, to produce hydrogen gas. The gas is then made to react with carbon dioxide to produce methanol.

Significantly, the project is in line with Oman’s nascent efforts to transition away from its longstanding dependence on fossil-based fuels for power generation into renewable and alternative energy resources with a lower carbon footprint.