Methanol is the simplest alcohol. It is a highly volatile, colorless and flammable liquid with an odor similar to ethanol. However, unlike ethanol (drinking alcohol), methanol or methyl alcohol is toxic and will cause poisoning of the central nervous system possibly causing blindness, coma or death. Methanol has a TLV-TWA of 200 ppm.
Methanol is predominantly produced from natural gas by reforming the gas with steam and then converting and distilling the resulting synthesized gas mixture to create pure methanol.
It is used as a feedstock to produce chemicals such as acetic acid and formaldehyde, which in turn are used in products like adhesives, foams, plywood subfloors, solvents and windshield washer fluid.
Methanol can be used on its own as a vehicle fuel or blended directly into gasoline to produce a high-octane, efficient fuel with lower emissions than conventional gasoline.
It is also used to produce methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline component that improves air quality, and dimethyl ether (DME), a clean-burning fuel with similar properties to propane.
Approximately 45 per cent of the world’s methanol is used in energy-related applications.
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