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Source fuels for MeOH and DiMethylether production

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Source fuels for MeOH and DiMethylether production

Unread postby wkwillis » Wed 07 Jul 2004, 04:07:30

Methanol is a good gasoline substitute. It is high octane and burns cleanly, requiring a smaller engine than regular gasoline. It is lower in energy density than regular gasoline, requires a larger gas tank, and is roughly twice as heavy. The cost tradeoff is about equal.
Dimethylether is a good diesel substitute. It is high cetane and one third less energy dense than diesel. It also requires a bigger gas tank, and since it is extremely flammable it requires heavier gas tanks to avoid a fire hazard. It is not as hard to start in cold weather as regular diesel.
The cost of manufacturing DME or methanol is roughly the same as refining crude oil into gasoline and diesel, and they are both made in roughly the same kind of synfuel plants. CO and H2 are passed over catalysts and combine to form either DME or methanol depending on the catalyst. The catalysts have steadily improved and require lower pressures than used to be the case, improving the economics.
Where the cost problem comes in is in the CO and H2. They can come from coal, natural gas, or coal bed methane.
Coal is contaminated with sulfur and the sulfur oxides in the coal combustion gas must be cooled and extracted by contact with water and lime. Gas has H2S which must be extracted by solvents prior to combustion. The natural gas and coal also cost money depending on where the plant is located. For natural gas there is usually either cost issues like location offshore or in the far north, or political risk issues like corruption and war.
Coal bed methane is almost always free of sulfur. Unfortunately it is freed from coal by depressurising the coal by dewatering to make the methane desorb. The water in the coal bed is usually contaminated with salts. The salts render the rivers they drain into unusable for agriculture. This is expensive because the farmers down stream require compensation in the water short areas now producing coal bed gas such as Alabama, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
However we have found substantial resources of coal bed gas in Alaska, in the southwest. This area has plenty of water and not many farmers. It also has plenty of ecologically aware people who treasure their lifes in one of the last unspoiled areas on earth. Perhaps when the oil money runs out they may support production of the coal bed gas.

{My apologies in advance for shorthanding the Subject Title. It wouldn't all fit; EE}
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Methanol, Again?

Unread postby EnviroEngr » Wed 07 Jul 2004, 17:23:26

Here's my rant on MeOH: http://www.peakoil.com/post2537.html#2537

A couple posts below (on that thread), I explain why.

You could argue, by the same logic, that gasoline itself put under the same looking glass would have you in duck-and-cover position just as fast or faster.

Meat bags that we are, you just can't win.

{Holy cow. I said that? Edits for clarity; EE}
Last edited by EnviroEngr on Wed 21 Jul 2004, 22:24:40, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Whitecrab » Wed 07 Jul 2004, 23:28:30

EE, I was reading a book on methanol the other day (http://www.peakoil.com/fortopic743.html). It said that methanol is a dangerous vapour, but because it's a small polar molecule it doesn't vaporize that much at room temperature. So having a bunch of methanol gas tanks isn't that dangerous at all, it compares favourably to sucking gas fumes.

And if you vaporize methanol to burn it, the vapour burns so well it's not an issue.


It is worth noting the authors of that book ran a methanol fuel plant, so they would be biased. :roll:
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Dimethyl ether - fuel of the future?

Unread postby Starvid » Sat 21 May 2005, 14:32:14

Dimetyl ether seem to be a good alternative fuel. It is cheap, costing € 0.49 -0.55 per litre of diesel equivlalent, its potential is huge since it can made from biofuels from the forest and with a CO2 emission less than a tenth of that of diesel. I especially want to point out the potential, which in Sweden is something like 100-150 TWh per year (we use about 140 TWh of oil every year). Compare the size of Swedens forests with those of Russia and Canada. It seems the US might get it's future fuel from Canada, but not from its tar sands. :)

Maybe forests will be called "The Green Gold"?

http://www.greencarcongress.com/dme/

http://www.atrax.se/pdf/Final_report_DME.pdf
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Unread postby dauterman » Mon 23 May 2005, 19:07:59

Hi,

I looked over you link and looked some things up on Dimethyl Ether (DME) and have the following concerns:

1. For every 1.0 Joules of wood biomass feedstock you put into the precess you get back anywhere from 0.49 to 0.63 Joules of DME. So you lose one third to one half of the energy of the biomass converting to DME. The biomass could just as easily have been burned for heat, electricity, etc. Burning wood biomass is much simpler/easier than DME conversion and you get the entire 1.0 joules out of it.

2. DME has a boiling point of -22 degrees C. In other words DME would boil off in an ordinary household freezer. It forms explosive mixtures with air. It has a flash point of -41 degrees C (i.e. exteremely flammable). See the MSDS of DME:

http://ptcl.chem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/DI/dimethyl_ether.html

And you're going to put this stuff in an internal combustion engine where some of the parts are well above room temperature? You're asking for a nifty fuel fire.

3. If inhaled or ingested it breaks down to methanol in the human body. This is highly toxic/poisonous. In animal experiments the LD50 (dose needed to kill half the test animals) is only 386 parts per million for 15 minutes. And the stuff is so volatile it boils off like mad. Everytime you go to fill up your tank you'd be poisoned by the fumes.

Just my 2 cents worth.
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Unread postby Devil » Tue 24 May 2005, 06:35:05

I'm sorry, but your 2 cents have little value. You have greatly exaggerated the toxicity and flammability and the MSDS you quote has mistaken its units. In fact, the LC50 (not LD50, which applies only to ingestion) would appear to be between 50,000 and 100,000 ppm. The clue should have hit you when you saw the LC50 figures for mouse and rat. The mouse figure should have read 386 g/m3, not ppm, which is one helluva concentration. If you had read your MSDS, you will see the time-weighted average operator exposure level is cited at 500 ppm (cited elsewhere at 1000 and 1500 ppm). This allows a worker to be permanently exposed to 500 ppm (or higher, depending on the info source) for 8 h/day, 5 days/week, 52 weeks/year without any risk of harm. As a rule, toxicologists allow a 10:1 safety margin below the least concentration observed to have caused any harm in any species, so it would require a minimum of 5000 ppm over a long period of time before there was a real risk of harm. Many industrial chemicals have much higher toxicities, such as common solvents like perchloroethylene (the stuff your dry cleaner probably uses) that some authorities limit to 25 ppm.

As for your contention that it is too flammable for use in vehicles because of its low flash point and explosivity, this is ridiculous. All fuels used in ICEs have flash points lower than "some of the parts" of the engine. Even the whisky you may drink has a flash point of 12°C, which is still lower than room temp. The important thing is the autoignition temp, cited in your MSDS at 350°C. I don't believe any part of an ICE, other than the gas in the cylinders and the electrodes of the spark plugs, ever reach anything like 350°C. In any case, your hypothesis would rule out any gas for an engine; hydrogen, methane, ethane, propane, butane, all of which "boil off like mad" at normal temps and pressures and all of which have explosive limits, often over a much wider range, and all of which have been proposed for driving cars (and have been used).

I'm not defending DME as a potential fuel source; I agree it sounds specious. I am only correcting the misinformation or disinformation you have seen fit to propagate.
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Unread postby Starvid » Tue 24 May 2005, 06:57:38

dauterman wrote:Hi,

I looked over you link and looked some things up on Dimethyl Ether (DME) and have the following concerns:

1. For every 1.0 Joules of wood biomass feedstock you put into the precess you get back anywhere from 0.49 to 0.63 Joules of DME. So you lose one third to one half of the energy of the biomass converting to DME. The biomass could just as easily have been burned for heat, electricity, etc. Burning wood biomass is much simpler/easier than DME conversion and you get the entire 1.0 joules out of it.

2. DME has a boiling point of -22 degrees C. In other words DME would boil off in an ordinary household freezer. It forms explosive mixtures with air. It has a flash point of -41 degrees C (i.e. exteremely flammable). See the MSDS of DME:

http://ptcl.chem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/DI/dimethyl_ether.html

And you're going to put this stuff in an internal combustion engine where some of the parts are well above room temperature? You're asking for a nifty fuel fire.

3. If inhaled or ingested it breaks down to methanol in the human body. This is highly toxic/poisonous. In animal experiments the LD50 (dose needed to kill half the test animals) is only 386 parts per million for 15 minutes. And the stuff is so volatile it boils off like mad. Everytime you go to fill up your tank you'd be poisoned by the fumes.

Just my 2 cents worth.


1. The thing is that Peak Oil is not an energy crisis, it is an liquid fuel crisis. It doesn't really matter if 2 joules of biomaterial is needed to get 1 joule of easily transportable fuel, since the alternative is not using the biomaterial at all, giving 0 joules of heat or electrcity.

2 & 3. Devils has already taken care of that.
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dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby 4dsc » Sat 06 May 2006, 09:57:57

Hey, I have search this forum for information on dimethyl ether, DME but it seem to have excaped me. Can someone direct me to the discussion on dimethyl ether and if its the answer to oil..
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby big_rc » Sat 06 May 2006, 10:32:00

Why in the world would you think dimethyl ether is a viable replacement for oil? Dimethyl ether is not a naturally occuring substance and must be manufactured from fossil fuels. This fact in and of itself eliminates DME as a replacement for oil.

PS - Go to Wikipedia and do a quick search for DME.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby coyote » Sat 06 May 2006, 14:01:21

big_rc wrote:Why in the world would you think dimethyl ether is a viable replacement for oil? Dimethyl ether is not a naturally occuring substance and must be manufactured from fossil fuels. This fact in and of itself eliminates DME as a replacement for oil.

PS - Go to Wikipedia and do a quick search for DME.

Wikipedia wrote:Dimethyl ether is also a clean-burning alternative to liquified petroleum gas, liquified natural gas, diesel and gasoline. It can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass.

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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby DJ_Mittens » Sat 06 May 2006, 15:03:29

Wikipedia wrote:Dimethyl ether is also a clean-burning alternative to liquified petroleum gas, liquified natural gas, diesel and gasoline. It can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass.


Yeah, there's the problem. There are not limitless supplies of natural gas, coal, or biomass. Increased reliance on those three will drive their supplies down and their costs up. Which is why big_rc shot it down.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby pup55 » Sat 06 May 2006, 20:48:12

Every old farmer knows what dimethyl ether, aka "ether" does. It is better known as "starting fluid" and readily available at your favorite auto place. The price used to be two bucks per 12 ounce spray can, but I do not know the current price.

If you are having trouble starting your old junker car, truck, tractor, or whatever, especially in the winter if your carb needs to be rebuilt, you shoot this stuff into your air cleaner and it would take right off. Usually this stuff would give it the kick it needed to get some gas down into intake manifold, and you would be off and running. If you were unlucky, and overshot some of this onto your greasy manifold, and get a backfire out of your carb, it might catch on fire, causing your vehicle to burn up. There is a warning to this effect on the can.

Also, as I recall, some of the old dragsters were set up to run on this stuff. Someone into this sport will have to remind me if this is the case.

If you use too much of this stuff, it will burn a hole in the top of your pistons, which is obviously bad, because it burns hotter and faster than gas. But, probably possible that a motor could be modified or designed deliberately to take it as a fuel if it was cheap and abundant.

But, it's not cheap and abundant. Also, you have the storage issue since it evaporates readily at gas tank temperature, so you would have to put it into a tank like propane.

But, cool stuff. Good for what ails you if you have an old junker.

Also, you could ignite the spray with a match or lighter, and have yourself a nice little blowtorch, just for fun. I believe this is what Elwood used to disable the elevator in The Blues Brothers.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby pup55 » Sat 06 May 2006, 21:02:34

Ether

I almost forgot about this. It was used in the early days of scientific medicine as one of the first anesthetics, that is, it will conk you out if you inhale just the right amount.

It will also kill you or give you brain damage if you inhale too much, though, so I would advise against trying it.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby mrflora » Mon 08 May 2006, 19:35:09

Profgoose at the Oil Drum had this to say about DME:

"The other thing to note and follow-up on is the emphasis, at the end of Dr Deffeyes talk, on Methanol (Beyond Oil and Gas - The Methanol Economy by George Olah etc and the transition to Dimethyl Ether (DME) of which he spoke quite favorably)."

This is from a conference he is attending - apparently Deffeyes believes there is something to DME. I must say I know nothing about the economics of DME production.

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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby smallpoxgirl » Mon 08 May 2006, 19:50:57

Ummm...first of all...starting fluid is diethylether not dimethylether. Diethyl ether was also used as an anesthetic. Medically it is a very acceptable anesthetic. The main reason it's use was discontinued was the risk of the vapors exploding. It only gives you brain damage if you get too much and asphyxiate. Top fuel dragsters run off the unrelated compound nitromethane.

As for DME being a replacement for gasoline or diesel, I'm a bit skeptical given that it's boiling point is -25C.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby Starvid » Tue 09 May 2006, 06:56:06

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby grabby » Wed 10 May 2006, 19:32:29

Probably the most dangerous liquid you could ever use. Hydrogen is much much safer than ether.

There would be many deaths from inhalation confusion crashes, and exxplosions. It would never be allowed.

your tanks would evaporate overnight and garages would explode with a cigarette or match. Houses would disappear about 6 oclock every morning and accidents would ALWAYS turn into blazing infernos.

It would be very exciting.
It is the most dangerous liquid this side of nitro methane.
actually it is worse than nitromethane for explosivity.
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Re: dimethyl ether, info please

Unread postby Caoimhan » Thu 11 May 2006, 04:51:18

I'm wondering if the original poster is getting confused with Dimethyl Ester? Biodiesel made with methanol produces Dimethyl Ester, if I'm not mistaken, which is completely different than Dimethyl Ether.
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Dimethyl ether as transport fuel, Spain & France--help!

Unread postby leonkaye » Sat 28 Apr 2007, 18:13:35

Hi, 4 graduate students are going to Europe the week of 14 May to explore the potential of dimethyl ether (not ester) as a transport fuel. We need to interview people. I've got quite a list from various web sites, but the more contacts we have, the better. It's hard to get a hold of people.

Does anyone out there have contacts in Madrid or Paris who could help us out? We'd like to talk to people in industry, academia, finance, government. The more people the better.

This is a fuel that has much potential--it's used in China, but there is a future for it in Europe. It burns quickly, virtually no emmissions, no particulates, etc.

You may respond to this list or reply to me directly at [email protected]

Thank you,

Leon Kaye
Tokyo, Japan, and Los Angeles, CA
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Re: Dimethyl ether as transport fuel, Spain & France--he

Unread postby steam_cannon » Sat 28 Apr 2007, 20:44:49

Sorry no contacts...

But a little about DME
"DME production from solid raw materials such as biomass and coal requires more processes than DME production from gases such as NG and LPG. This is because the solid materials need go through the gasification process to produce the syngas required for the DME-synthesis."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyl_ether

I have spent some time looking into biomass gasification. Dimethyl_ether one of the kinds of fuels you can process from biomass and it's easier to store then Hydrogen. It might have a future as a large scale fuel, in press releases. But how much we will be able to produce is a difficult question. Anyway, I'm sure any company that produces it would have no trouble finding a market with the impending Natural Gas Cliff US and Candida are heading off. Sounds like a great project!

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