Methanol is produced from natural gas. Methanex - a Canadian company - is adding new production to its New Zealand plant for export to Asia. In Canada MEOX has two plants - one in Alberta and a new one planned for Louisiana. The US plant will start up end of 2014.
China uses methanol/gasoline blends to operate motor vehicles. I think soon North American cars will be running this blend too. It is similar to running ethanol/gasoline. It is a simpler solution than converting vehicles to CNG operation and logistics are simpler too since it is a liquid like gasoline... no need to build new fuel supply station infrastructure.
Methanex: Global Methanol Production Facilities
Our 470,000 tonne per year methanol plant in Medicine Hat, Alberta, restarted in 2011.
The facility is extremely well positioned to supply customers in Canada and the U.S.
In early 2012, Methanex announced it secured land in Geismar, Louisiana, and plans to
move one of its idle methanol plants in Chile to this location. The final investment
decision is expected to be made in Q3 2012. The impact of shale gas development in
North America has resulted in a low price natural gas environment in North America and
a competitive environment to produce methanol.
Methanex owns three methanol plants in Taranaki, New Zealand, representing 2.2 million
tonnes of potential capacity- two plants in Motunui and one in Waitara Valley. In October
2008, we restarted one of our idled 850,000 tonne per year Motunui methanol plants and
idled our 530,000 tonne per year Waitara Valley plant. In early 2012, Methanex announced
plans to restart the second Motunui methanol plant. The plant is expected to commence
production in mid-2012 and will add up to 650,000 tonnes of incremental capacity per year.
Product from the New Zealand facility is shipped to Asia Pacific
not quite as simple as it first seems. If I can recall methanol helps promote more corrosion of metals and is more sensetive to water/condensation and can separate from the gasoline more easily. While much of these challenges can be mitigated its at some cost. Add to this cng just requires mechanical/physical process for the most part while methanol requires chemistry at a cost energy and capital. cng is just more simple. One would have to agree that liquid methanol is more energy dense than nat gas ie: can store more energy in a smaller volume which is gasolines major advantage.
The biggest obstacle to CNG IMO is you need to roll out a lot of new infrastructure - new CNG (or maybe even LNG) tanker trucks to deliver to a network of re-fueling stations equipped with natgas storage tanks and 'gas' pumps to fill up the vehicles. With methanol, you blend it at source then use conventional gasoline tanker trucks and existing gas stations to supply the end-users. Not sure about specific corrosion or blending issues since both are alcohols... but any newer FlexFuel car will run either ethanol or methanol blend.
"FlexFuel" vehicles have upgraded fuel system and engine components which are designed for long life using E85 or M85, and the ECU can adapt to any fuel blend between gasoline and E85 or M85. Typical upgrades include modifications to: fuel tanks, fuel tank electrical wiring, fuel pumps, fuel filters, fuel lines, filler tubes, fuel level sensors, fuel injectors, seals, fuel rails, fuel pressure regulators, valve seats and inlet valves. "Total Flex" Autos destined for the Brazilian market can use E100 (100% Ethanol).
Other companies are taking advantage of cheap nat gas like the ammonia or nitrogen fertilizer industry which uses the hydrogen from nat gas to combine with nitrogen to make ammonia/nitrogen fertilizer. the upgrad of the oil sands bitumen is also taking advantage of the cheap nat gas not only for heat to make steam but to take the hydrogen out of the nat gas to add to/upgrade the bitumen. Still waiting for the massive demand from the oil sands expansions to drive nat gas prices up as many predicted.