Environmental implications of the methanol economy in China: well-to-wheel comparison of energy and environmental emissions for different methanol fuel production pathways

Yuan Yao*, Yuan Chang, Runze Huang, Lixiao Zhang, Eric Masanet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

The methanol economy concept, which promises to replace fossil fuels as means of energy storage, transportation fuels, and feedstocks of chemical products, has existed for decades, but large-scale applications have been elusive. Currently, China is providing policy support for methanol fuels, thereby taking steps towards the methanol economy concept in the fuels and chemical industries. As China's methanol focus continues, there are two key questions relevant to policymakers, manufacturers and environmental communities: (1) can methanol fuels realize their expected environmental benefits compared to conventional gasoline when adopted at large scales; (2) are there technology and policy options that should be pursued to ensure the potential environmental benefits associated with methanol manufactured from multiple feedstocks in China? In this study, we developed robust estimates of the primary energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water consumption, and air emissions (SO2 and NOx) associated with methanol fuel life cycle in China. Based on the results, both long-term and short-term implications for promoting methanol fuel in China are discussed. The results and discussions presented in this work provide manufacturers and policymakers with more holistic views of the environmental costs and benefits associated with a potential methanol transition in China, as well as actionable guidance to reduce environmental impacts from a life-cycle perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1381-1390
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume172
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 20 2018

Keywords

  • China
  • Environmental implication
  • Life cycle inventory
  • Methanol economy
  • Production pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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