Methanol (also known as methyl alcohol; methyl hydroxide; monohydroxy methane; and wood alcohol) has the chemical formula CH3OH and is a clear, colorless liquid that has a mild, characteristic alcohol odor.  It is soluble in water and is also soluble in other alcohols, esters, ketones, ethers, and in most other organic solvents.

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Methanol ( methyl alcohol )


Methanol is produced naturally in the environment by the anaerobic metabolism of many varieties of bacteria but it was first isolated in 1661 by Robert Boyle who produced it via the distillation of boxwood.

Since then it has become one of the most heavily traded chemicals in the world with an estimated global demand of 29 million metric tons per year.  This is because Methanol is a very versatile chemical that forms the basis of hundreds of chemicals which are then used in many everyday products.

It is produced in a three-stage process consisting of Reforming, Compression, and Distillation.  In the first step, natural gas is combined with steam, under heat, to produce synthesis gas which consists of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.  Then, In step two, this synthesis gas is pressurized (compressed) and reacted to form methanol.  In the third stage, the liquid mixture is heated to separate the components.  The resulting vapor is then cooled and condensed to provide pure methanol.

Storage and Transportation

It has a flashpoint of 12oC (closed cup) which makes it Flammable and, as such, is classified for transport as Class 3, Pack group II.  It also has a specific gravity of 0.7915.

Methanol should be stored in a cool, well-ventilated, area that is free from all sources of ignition and the container should be kept tightly closed when not in use.

Methanol can be poisonous if consumed so it should also be labeled as toxic.

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Methanol is an important chemical feedstock which is utilized primarily in the production of formaldehyde, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and acetic acid.  It is also used in the manufacture of DMT, MMA, chloromethanes, methylamines, glycol methyl ethers, and fuels.  It also has a general solvent and antifreeze uses so can be found as a component of paint stripper and de-icers.

This means that methyl alcohol is an integral part of everyday life as it can be found in plastics, synthetic fibers, fuels, resins, paints, safety glass laminate, adhesives, solvents, carpeting, insulation, refrigerants, particleboard, pigments, and dyes.

Methanol is also used in wastewater treatment as it provides a carbon food source for the denitrifying bacteria as the nutrient-rich nitrates in sewage effluent can have a major effect on water eco-systems, for example, enabling algae blooms.

It seems that Methanol will remain an important chemical in the future, as many countries are seeking to expand methanol fuelling programs. because it is readily available, has a high octane rating, and is easy to transport.  If methanol production costs can be cut, via large scale plants consuming natural gas, it could also be used to make ethylene and propylene, and dimethyl ether.  It could also be utilized in power generation.

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Methanol ( methyl alcohol )


NoItemMethodAnalytical Result
1Acetonemg/kgASTM E 346MAX 30
2Acidity as Acetic Acidmg/kgASTM D 1613MAX 30
3Alkalinity as NH3mg/kgASTM D 1614MAX 30
4AppearanceIMPCA 003-98Clear, free from suspended
5CarbonizePt-Co ScaleASTM E 346MAX 30
6ChlorideColormg/kgIMPCA 002-98MAX 0.1
7ColorPt-Co ScaleASTM D 1209MAX 5
8Distillation RangeoCASTM D 107864.5 – 65.5
9Ethanol Contentmg/kgASTM E 346Max 10
10hydrocarbonASTM D 1722Pass test
11Nonvolatile Contentmg/1000 mLASTM D 1353Max 8
12OdorASTM D 1296Characteristic free of foreign odor
13PurityIMPCA 001-02Min 99,85%
14Permanganate TimeMinuteASTM D 1363Min 60
15Specific Gravity20/20 oCASTM D 40520.792 – 0.793
16TMAmg/kgGas ChromatographyMax 0.05
17Total ironmg/kgASTM E 394Max 0.1
18Water content%wtASTM E 1064
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