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Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy [Paperback]

George A. Olah , Alain Goeppert , G. K. Surya Prakash
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

23 Sep 2009 3527324224 978-3527324224 2nd, Updated and Enlarged Edition
The world is currently consuming about 85 million barrels of oil a day, and about two–thirds as much natural gas equivalent, both derived from non–renewable natural sources. In the foreseeable future, our energy needs will come from any available alternate source. Methanol is one such viable alternative, and also offers a convenient solution for efficient energy storage on a large scale. In this updated and enlarged edition, renowned chemists discuss in a clear and readily accessible manner the pros and cons of humankind′s current main energy sources, while providing new ways to overcome obstacles. Following an introduction, the authors look at the interrelationship of fuels and energy, and at the extent of our non–renewable fossil fuels. They also discuss the hydrogen economy and its significant shortcomings. The main focus is on the conversion of CO2 from industrial as well as natural sources into liquid methanol and related DME, a diesel fuel substitute that can replace LNG and LPG. The book is rounded off with an optimistic look at future possibilities. A forward–looking and inspiring work that vividly illustrates potential solutions to our energy and environmental problems.

Product details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley VCH; 2nd, Updated and Enlarged Edition edition (23 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3527324224
  • ISBN-13: 978-3527324224
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 17.3 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 930,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

“This inexpensive, forward–looking, and inspiring book should advance their goal, and I recommend it most enthusiastically to anyone concerned with the major challenge of future energy and environmental problems—a central issue for our society.”  ( Found Chem , 1 October 2013) “This fuller second edition of this text by Olah and co–authors presents a comprehensive and convincing argument for a realistic vision of a future based on methanol as the solution to our insatiably expanding demands for energy.”  ( Energy Technology , 1 October 2013) "In my opinion the authors have eminently achieved their goal, and I am pleased to recommend most enthusiastically this inexpensive, forward–looking, and inspiring book to anyone concerned with the major challenge of future energy and environmental problems – a central issue for our society." The Chemical Educator "...a topical book, which challenges the important questions of this century. This book will contribute to the intense discussion to find the right answers. Some questions have been answered forward–looking." Angewandte Chemie I.E. "A lucidly written, attractively produced book this constitutes one of the best introductions – presented in the readable style of a definitive New Yorker magazine article...To all who care about alternative sources of energy and of chemical building blocks for the future this book is an invaluable guide." ChemPhysChem "The book presents the reader with an analysis of energy history, an analysis of the status quo and a description of the methanol thesis. It is a book that should appeal to science historians, chemists and chemical engineers alike." Chemistry World "... an interesting and thought–provoking book..." Chemistry & Industry "Throughout, the text and arguments presented are exceptionally clear and engaging. For anyone interested in the subjects of energy, fossil fuels, alternative fuels, and energy solutions, this book will be a valuable resource." Chemical & Engineering News "When I first picked up this book, it looked technical, possibly of interest only to specialists. But then I began reading. Throughout, the text and arguments presented are exceptionally clear and engaging. For anyone interested in the subjects of energy, fossil fuels, alternative fuels, and energy solutions, this book will be a valuable resource." www.pubs.acs.org "...The book is rounded off with a glimps into the future." Metall

From the Back Cover

The world is currently consuming about 85 million barrels of oil a day, and about two–thirds as much natural gas equivalent, both derived from non–renewable natural sources. In the foreseeable future, our energy needs will come from any available alternate source. Methanol is one such viable alternative, and also offers a convenient solution for efficient energy storage on a large scale. In this updated and enlarged edition, renowned chemists discuss in a clear and readily accessible manner the pros and cons of humankind′s current main energy sources, while providing new ways to overcome obstacles. Following an introduction, the authors look at the interrelationship of fuels and energy, and at the extent of our non–renewable fossil fuels. They also discuss the hydrogen economy and its significant shortcomings. The main focus is on the conversion of CO2 from industrial as well as natural sources into liquid methanol and related DME, a diesel fuel substitute that can replace LNG and LPG. The book is rounded off with an optimistic look at future possibilities. A forward–looking and inspiring work that vividly illustrates potential solutions to our energy and environmental problems.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
What you make of this book depends on your level of knowledge in the energy/environment sector and what you want to get out of it.

If you are a novice, this book will give you a very good overview of the different kinds of energy sources, how they roughly work and a number of tables with scientific and economical data. It is a good data source for political discussions and for business plans in this area.

Look at the table of contents first, and it will give you an idea about the weighting of information in this book and it will manage expectations.

170 pages out 260 are used for these basic history, science and economics lessons not directly related to the methanol economy but the energy economy as a whole (including global warming). Unfortunately even the last 90 pages do not have too much new information, conceptual thinking or ways forward about the methanol economy. Most of the 90 pages is used on all kinds of information about methanol, such as historcial production, usage, price development and safety aspects.

Towards the end you will find the pages that I had expected to dominate the book: the DMFC (Direct Methanol Fuel Cell), technologies to produce methanol from CO2 and CO2 sourcing. As a chemical engineer, I had expectde a bit more indepth discussion in this area, more pinpointing of the key technological challenges and how they should be addressed in the future.

Overall, it is a propper data collection without the "WOW"-effect that the topic actually deserves.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring book about our current energy challenges and a possible solution 4 April 2006
By Kate Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The increasing world population and the declining availability of cheap oil threaten to plunge the world into a global energy crisis. Concerns over our reliance on oil and gas and the impact of fossil fuels on the environment have escalated significantly in recent years. This book explores current energy sources (oil, natural gas, coal, atomic energy) as well as renewable alternative energies (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, etc), the interrelation of fuels and energy, and the extent of non-renewable fossil fuel resources. Besides the need to find alternates to diminishing fossil fuels, the authors outline the need for hydrocarbons and their products way into the future despite depleting reserves and global warming, and examine the envisioned hydrogen economy and its significant shortcomings.It illustrates how methanol can be used as a convenient liquid fuel and a raw material for hydrocarbons and their products. The needed methanol can be made from a variety of sources including carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas). This timely book demonstrates how carbon dioxide from industrial exhausts (and eventually even atmospheric carbon dioxide) can be converted into safe liquid methanol. I thought that it was an insightful and inspiring guide to meeting the world's future energy needs while preserving the environment.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent job covering alternative renewable energy sources 24 Nov 2006
By Fascinated explorer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Olah (1994 Nobel laureate carbocation chemistry, director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute) and his coauthors do an excellent job going over fossil fuel(coal, natural gas, oil) resources, how close we are to running out of each, the vast number of uses for these resources, and the likelihood of climate change due to their burning. It is assumed that in the future we will have abundant energy available from nuclear and alternative sources. Methanol would then be one of the prime carriers of this energy, and an alternate source for all petrochemicals.

They also cover alternative renewable energy sources, compare using hydrogen versus methanol as a carrier of energy from new renewable energy sources and nuclear energy plants. The authors do a thorough job pointing out the enormous use of hydrocarbons throughout the industrial world for a huge array of products. Not only do we need vast new renewable sources of energy we also need to be able to use this energy to change new carbon sources into useful products. The new source of carbon, methanol from CO2 and H2! Olah, et al shows in great detail how methanol can be changed chemically into the precursors for just about anything and at very high efficiencies. We would use energy from nuclear and new renewable energy sources directly where we can, such as powering our factories and homes' electrical systems. We would use some of this new energy to change CO2 from emissions and hydrogen from electrolysis of water, into methanol to run our cars, trucks, etc., and provide feedstock for all the products now produced from petroleum. Note that methanol formed this way adds no new CO2 since CO2 from the surroundings is used to make it. This is very similar to using ethanol produced from corn or other biomass, except it involves more chemistry.

The new process involves using electrochemical or photochemical reduction of CO2, which forms methanol, formic acid and formaldehyde, CO2 + 2H2 -> CH3OH with additional products which are also changed to CH3OH,

HCHO + HCO2H -> CH3OH + CO2

They don't give a lot of details, because they have a patent pending on the process.

In the interim, while we are developing and building alternative renewable energy sources, we can change coal, natural gas, biomass, etc., into methanol. This is already done to a small degree and existing infrastructure for gas and oil can be used with small adjustments. The authors also compare using hydrogen and methanol, as storage and transport media.

It was a surprise to me that there is more hydrogen in a liter of liquid methanol (98.8 g of hydrogen) than in a liter of liquid hydrogen (70.8 g at -253?C), water for comparison has 111g of hydrogen. Methanol would store and transport much more easily than liquid hydrogen.

The first sources of CO2 would be exhaust gas from utilities and big factories, which generate a lot of CO2, hydrogen would come from water being electrolyzed, CO2 + 3H2 -> CH3OH + H2O. Then as our CO2 capture methods get better it would be captured directly from the air. Anyone in the world would with access to energy, would then have a source for a vast array of chemicals! Note that if CO2 becomes a useful commodity people and nations will compete to pull it out of the atmosphere, and prevent it from being released since it has value. This has much greater appeal than other proposals such as sequestering of the CO2. A lot would depend on how efficient the process is. It would be useful if they would give some information on this, but Olah replied to me that `...we have of course extensive patent coverage filed for and in process. For obvious reasons in our book we could not go into any details.

The driving force for the Methanol Economy is new energy from nuclear and alternative renewable energy sources, which we don't have yet, replacing hydrocarbons as fuel. Olah, et al has great confidence that the many problems facing these new energy sources are solvable. The authors are quite negative on the safety of hydrogen, but don't seem to see a major non solvable problem with nuclear. Nuclear as we know certainly has its problems, and most of us are wary of nuclear. Scientific American had an article (December 2005 issue) on the latest nuclear plant design which uses 99% of the fuel rather than 1% in current plants. It would also have proportionally less radioactive waste, with a much shorter halflife. One of the hookers is using two separate liquid Na (at 600?C) loops as a coolant. Not a minor engineering feat. Another recent Scientific American article Sept 2006, instead sings the praises for 3rd generation nukes with improved technology, but with the same problems we currently have.

A fuel cell is being developed which uses methanol directly.

Anode: CH3OH + H2O -> CO2 + 6H+ + 6e-

Cathode: 1.5O2 + 6H+ + 6e- -> 3H2O

Overall: CH3OH + 1.5O2 -> CO2 + 2H2O

It has a theoretical efficiency of 97%, so far 34% has been achieved, while using H2 and O2 in a fuel cell has a theoretical efficiency of 83%. Of course methanol produces CO2 (which would eventually be used as feedstock) as compared to H2 which just produces water, a great advantage.

Anytime we contemplate huge installations for generating energy, whether they are nuclear or renewable we face the problem of transporting the energy to the user. Methanol, since it can use existing infrastructure of pipelines, trucks, gas stations with few changes would appear to be far cheaper than hydrogen. A July 2006 article in Scientific American `A Power Grid for the Hydrogen Economy' pointed out that our nation's electrical grid is experiencing problems and a possible solution would be to create a new national grid which would carry electricity from distant plants-renewable, nuclear, coal fired etc., by a superconductor cooled by liquid hydrogen. You would have the electricity almost resistance free (about 10% is currently lost in transmission) and the hydrogen for chemical uses. The economics of all these proposals is very hazy.

Some further food for thought is a 1998 study that indicates that the unsubsidized price of gasoline was between $6- 15/gal. A number of other studies place it at $3-11. If their methodology is close to correct then the current subsidy is much higher now, and if this subsidy were available to alternative energy sources they would be much more competitive.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book 31 Mar 2006
By Steven Matzen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Very interesting book showing our utterly dependence on fossil fuel and the consequences of this dependence including resource depletion and global warming. The authors offer an answer to these problems by the installation of a so-called methanol economy which will use liquid methanol as a convenient energy carrier and raw material for hydrocarbons and all the products derived today from petroleum or natural gas (plastics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, etc..).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake up, world 1 Oct 2007
By R. G. W. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The extraordinarily wide-ranging review of our major energy sources should be manadtory reading for everybody.

The case is then made for developing (and researching further) the use of methanol as a future energy source. It is compelling.

Why do we not hear politicians and the press screaming for this work to be done?

Creating a practical new source of energy whilst having an impact on CO2 greenhouse gases seems to be a possibility.

Wake up world ! - it's time for a paradigm shift.

This is a masterpiece - a remarkable book at an amazingly low price.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you need to know about the methanol-based economy 23 May 2011
By Pichierri Fabio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We are facing a great dilemma: what type of energy and fuels will we employ once that fossil fuels are over? The authors of this book (one of which is a Nobel Chemistry winner) suggest methanol (CH3OH) as possible candidate. Why methanol? Simply put, methanol can be obtained from biomass such as algae or other plants and by using efficient catalysts it is possible to hydrogenate carbon dioxide (CO2) to obtain methanol and water: CO2 + 3H2 = CH3OH + H2O.
These characteristics open up the possibility of realizing an open biogeochemical cycle (see Figure 12.14 inside the book, 2nd edition) whereby atmospheric CO2 can be reduced thus, at the same time, contributing to solve the (hotly debated) problem of global warming. Furthermore, the dehydration of methanol yields dimethylether, DME, which is an important substitute for diesel. Hence, the premises for adopting a methanol-based economy are certainly interesting and both scientists and administrators should evaluate this important proposal. In my opinion, it is likely that the selection of future fuel(s) will be based mainly on the costs that society has to bear for adopting a new energy economy. Also, the possibility to mass produce methanol will be an important factor in this choice. Anyway, the book explores many issues, ranging from the scientific and technical ones to political and economical. Many aspects about industrial chemical processes are also included inside the book and these will benefit those chemical engineers involved in the design of new industrial plants and processes for the large-scale production of methanol.
A book that nicely complements "Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy" is Armaroli and Balzani's book "Energy for a Sustainable World: From the Oil Age to a Sun-Powered Future". Ultimately, it is important for both scientists and non-scientists to learn more about alternative or reneawable energy resources and energy-related issues so that our global society will be able to solve this difficult problem once that fossil fuels are depleted.
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