Posted on November 30, 2014

The first Middle East Methanol Forum (MEMF) organised by Qatar Fuel Additives Company Limited (QAFAC), the leading producer of methanol and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in Qatar, very effectively showcased the wide-ranging benefits of the use and application of methanol.

The Forum, whose key theme was “Miracle Energy on Hand (MeOH)”, was held on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at the Sharq Village in Doha, Qatar and in which around 180 global industry executives and senior government officials participated. The conference was organized under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry of the State of Qatar. Qatar Chemical and Petrochemical Marketing and Distribution Company (Muntajat) was the main sponsor of this prestigious event. Muntajat aims to become a one-stop shop for all chemicals, polymers and fertiliser exports from Qatar, including the country’s methanol and MTBE which is produced by QAFAC.

Methanol’s numerous applications highlighted at the one-day conference included: replacement of LPG in cooking and heating applications, as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective substitute for diesel-powered generators, and as a blending component in gasoline that can help reduce government subsidies while protecting the environment and human health.. Additionally, pilot-testing has been conducted on methanol’s use as an alternative fuel for the shipping industry.

Present at the Forum was Mr. Hamad Rashid Al-Mohannadi, QAFAC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, RasGas Company Limited, who delivered the welcome address after the introductions and general methanol industry overview presented by Mr. Nasser Jeham Al-Kuwari, Chief Executive Officer of QAFAC. They were then followed by “Remarks by the Methanol Institute” from Mr. Dennis Patrick, Chairman, Methanol Institute and Chief Executive Officer, Methanol Trinidad Holdings Limited (MHTL) (Trinidad & Tobago).

In order to provide participants with background information about Methanol, a special video presentation on “The History of Methanol”, courtesy of Johnson Matthey, was conducted. After that, Mr. Khalid Al Hitmi, Chief Operating Officer of QAFAC then gave a briefing about “QAFAC Overview and CO2 Recovery Plant”. During one of the panel discussions on “Making the Case for Oxygenates in the GCC”, Mr. Awadh Hassan Al-Shanfari, Chief Executive Officer of Salalah Methanol Company LLC in Oman, has pointed out that Oman is reviewing fuel blending standards and regulations in the country, considering methanol blending in gasoline.

Meanwhile, Mr. James Boettcher, Chairman of Oorja Protonics Inc. and General Partner at Focus Ventures, United States, noted in his presentation that methanol’s use in cooking and heating is especially important as a replacement for the indoor burning of wood, charcoal, coal, etc., which can cause serious health problems. He also presented how Oorja uses methanol to provide enough power to supplement or supplant diesel generator sets and batteries in target markets and applications.

“Direct methanol fuel cells contains non-explosive liquid that are user-friendly, easily transportable, and costs less for stationary or mobile storage,” Boettcher said. “Thus, it can deliver better ROIs in logistics applications versus extra batteries, charging stations, and battery replacement. In addition, methanol fuel cells deliver lower TCO/LCOE (transparent conductive oxide and levelized cost of electricity) than diesel generator sets or H2 fuel cells in off-grid locations such as telecom base stations.”

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As far as the use of methanol as marine fuels is concerned, Mr. Toni Stojcevski, Project Manager for Methanol Adaptation at Wartsila Sweden, revealed that some of the conclusions derived from using methanol in the diesel process of marine engines include: engine output and efficiency is equal to diesel engine; significant reduction of NOx and particulate matter as compared to diesel; life span of major engine components will be similar or even better than the diesel engine; and that no change in oil change intervals are expected.

“Using Wartsila’s technology, adaptation of proven engine technology (GD), require minor modification to the engine, there is no reduction in efficiency or output running on methanol, existing fuel and ballast tanks can be converted to methanol tanks, there is lower thermic load on the engine, and much lower NOx, SOx, GHG and PM (particulates) makes it safe for future ECA regulations,” Stojcevski explained. “The ZAL40S test engine have been running 100 hours on methanol with positive results. Thus, the Stena Germanica vessel will be going to the shipyard on January 28 (2015). During the conversion process, the bunkering line, tanks, pump room, pumps, piping, automation upgrade, and one engine conversion will take place and enable it to be the first-ever ship operating on methanol by the end of March.”

The other presentations at the Forum included that of Mr. Mike Nash, Global Director, Syngas Chemicals, IHS, United Kingdom, who spoke about the “Effective Monetization of Natural Gas Assets”; “Market Perspectives: The China Question” was delivered by Mr. Khai Zhao, Deputy Director, Academic Board Office of the Peking University’s Center for Global New Energy Strategy Studies (CGNESS). Mr. Zhao also serves as an Advisor to the China Association of Alcohol & Ether Clean Fuel and Automobiles (CAAEFA). Additionally, Mr. Abdulrahman Ali Al-Abdulla, Chief Executive Officer of Muntajat, elaborated on the topic, “Global Ambitions: The Vision to Expand Qatar’s Chemical and Petrochemical Industry Worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Ben Iosefa, Vice Chairman, of the Methanol Institute’s Board of Directors and Vice President, Global Market Development & Stakeholder Relations at Methanex Corporation in Canada, acted as a moderator on a panel discussion and two Q&A and discussion sessions. Ms. Tammy Klein, Senior Vice President, Downstream Research for Hart Energy in the United States, also presented her views on global developments of the methanol industry.

At the end of this pioneering platform for discussion about methanol in the region, Mr. Nasser Al-Kuwari delivered the closing remarks and presented tokens of appreciation to all speakers. “The discussions at this inaugural edition of the Middle East Methanol Forum were indeed substantive and extremely informative,” Mr. Al-Kuwari said. “There is still so much to be learned and discussed, in order to better cultivate the many uses and benefits of methanol for the future. “We are deeply grateful to all the speakers as well as to the participants who made this forum a big success,” he added. “We are looking forward to producing this conference again in the future, so as to contribute further to the significant developments taking place throughout the entire global methanol industry.”