Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, is an alternative fuel that can be produced from any carbon-based source. Examples of carbon-based sources are: natural gas, coal, wood wastes, and seaweed. Methanol is not commonly used because automakers are no longer making vehicles that run on methanol. Global methanol production capacity is about 12 billion gallons per year. Its chemical compound is CH3OH.
Methanol is primarily produced by steam reforming natural gas. This creates a synthesis gas, which is then fed into a reactor vessel which contains a catalyst to produce methanol and water vapor. Distillation then removes the vapor from the methanol. Although other carbon-based sources can be used, natural gas is economically favored.
Using methanol as an alternative fuel source is good because it produces lower emissions, yields higher performance, and has a lower risk of flammability than gasoline. It can also be manufactured from a wide variety of substances since many things are carbon-based. Because the use of methanol creates better performance and acceleration, it is used as the fuel for Indy race cars, monster trucks, and model vehicles.
Methanol is more corrrosive than gasoline so parts that come into contact with methanol must be able to withstand its corrosive ability. Also, because the air to fuel mixture is richer than gasoline, a given volume of gasoline will take you about 70% farther than the same sized tank of methanol. Although methanol is found naturally in the human body in small amounts, it is a very toxic substance and can be harmful if swallowed, absorbed through the skin, or inhaled. Ingestion of just 1 to 4 ounces can cause injury to the nervous system, blindness, or even death. For these reasons, methanol must be disposed of in accordance with governmental control regulations.