Alternative Fuels:

Potential of Methanol as a Boiler or Turbine Fuel

RCED-86-136FS: Published: Apr 4, 1986. Publicly Released: Apr 4, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the potential for using methanol as a fuel for producing energy from stationary sources, such as boilers and gas turbines.

GAO found that methanol is not economically viable as a boiler fuel at present because: (1) it is extremely costly; (2) it has a lower thermal efficiency than other boiler fuels; and (3) fossil fuels are relatively plentiful. Methanol has been tested, but not commercially demonstrated, as a fuel that could be used in a two-stage boiler combustion system to reduce pollutant emissions. GAO also found that: (1) methanol has technical advantages over other gas turbine fuels; (2) while methanol is more expensive than other turbine fuels, it may become more attractive than other fuels because it creates fewer pollutants; and (3) methanol may be a potential standby fuel for gas turbines during fuel supply disruptions. In addition, GAO found that: (1) it could be cheaper to produce methanol in coal gasification plants because the gas such plants produce is chemically similar to that used to produce methanol; and (2) a combination of technical and cost factors prevent the widespread use of coal and methanol mixtures as boiler fuel.

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