The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation recently organised a road show to sensitise Nigerians on the imperative of boosting methanol fuel production technology in the country.
According to Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the minister, developed countries are gradually reducing their reliance on crude oil and placing emphasis on cleaner and renewable sources of energy.
The clamour for cleaner energy sources, Onu noted, was in line the “Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of countries of which Nigeria is a part, under the 2015 Climate Change Paris Agreement.
“The immediate impact of these initiatives is reduction in the global demand for crude oil,’’ he said.
The minister who harped on value addition to abundant natural resources in order to strengthen the economy through revenue generation, pointed out that Nigeria was more of a gas nation with huge deposits.
He said that methanol, useful and applicable in more than 1,000 different products used by people every day in various places of work, homes, factories, schools, hospitals and virtually everywhere involved value addition.
The minister explained that methane which forms the bulk of natural gas can be converted into useful chemical called methanol.
“We can now see that methanol is the only way that we are going to use our gas by adding value, changing its state and converting it into something that is very useful in virtually all aspects of our economy.
“Innovation is at the heart of our ability to find a solution that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable; that is why methanol-driven economy is beneficial in many areas,’’ Onu said.
The minister listed these areas to include job creation, technology development and domestication, electricity generation, clean household energy services, chemical industry value chain and reduction in pulmonary diseases among women and children.
Others are efficient transportation services, stoppage of gas flaring and achieving environmental sustainability.
Onu said the benefits of introducing methanol fuel in the country are enormous as it would create over 40 million new jobs.
“Every part of this nation would benefit, every segment of the society would benefit whether you are young or old, male or female.
“This is why it is important for us to find a technology which when introduced into our economy would help us solve the problem of unemployment,’’ the minister said.
Onu maintained that the technology would help Nigeria employ all those trained in the sciences, humanities, management and others to have jobs to do.
Accordingly, he said all these and many more would be achieved while the environment remains protected and managed.
“Captains of chemical industries are aware that the chemical industry is one of the least developed in the country, as virtually all the chemicals used in our factories are currently imported from other countries.
“With the introduction of methanol, manufacturers would use it as a feedstock for several product lines.
“As a fuel in the transportation sector, it is cheaper than PMS (Petrol); it is more friendly to the environment; has higher octane rating and enhances performance of vehicles.
“Furthermore, methanol can be blended with PMS at 15 per cent methanol and 85 per cent PMS and this blend can be used in all vehicles without requiring any significant modification,’’ Onu said.
He clarified that cooking with wood, charcoal and kerosene to a large extent constitute serious threat to human health, forests and vegetation leading to deforestation.
He added that methanol, being a cheaper and cleaner fuel would help solve these problems.
In view of all these benefits, the minister called on entrepreneurs and investors in the private sector to invest in methanol production.
Other stakeholders also agreed with the minister, stating that methanol can be an alternative to conventional transportation fuels.
They admitted that the benefits of methanol include lower production cost as methanol is cheap to produce relative to other alternative fuels.
It has improved safety, since methanol has a lower risk of flammability compared to gasoline.
They all consented that methanol production is important because pure methanol is an important material in chemical synthesis.
Its derivatives are used in great quantities for building up a vast number of compounds, among them, many important synthetic dyestuffs, resins, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes.
Alyssa Noll, writing on ‘Methanol Economy’ argued that though hydrogen has been proposed as a clean alternative fuel source because it can be produced from water, methanol economy presents several advantages over hydrogen economy.
He further said that methane unlike hydrogen gas is an abundant natural energy source.
“Hydrogen gas is dangerously more volatile than methanol at 64.7 degree Centigrade, with a boiling point of -253 degree Centigrade.
“As a result, hydrogen is much more costly and complicated to store and transport, but importantly, methanol as a liquid, can be seamlessly incorporated into present infrastructure.’’