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Methanol as a Renewable Energy Carrier: An Assessment of Production and Transportation Costs for Selected Global Locations


The importing of renewable energy will be one part of the process of defossilizing the energy systems of countries and regions, which are currently heavily dependent on the import of fossil-based energy carriers. This study investigates the possibility of importing renewable methanol comprised of hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Based on a methanol synthesis simulation model, the net production costs of methanol are derived as a function of hydrogen and carbon dioxide expenses. These findings enable a comparison of the import costs of methanol and hydrogen. For this, the hydrogen production and distribution costs for 2030 as reported in a recent study for four different origin/destination country combinations are considered. With the predicted hydrogen production costs of 1.35–2 €/kg and additional shipping costs, methanol can be imported for 370–600 €/t if renewable or process-related carbon dioxide is available at costs of 100 €/t or below in the hydrogen-producing country. Compared to the current fossil market price of approximately 400 €/t, renewable methanol could therefore become cost-competitive. Within the range of carbon dioxide prices of 30–100 €/t, both hydrogen and methanol exhibit comparable energy-specific import costs of 18–30 €/GJ. Hence, the additional costs for upgrading hydrogen to methanol are balanced out by the lower shipping costs of methanol compared to hydrogen. Lastly, a comparison for producing methanol in the hydrogen’s origin or destination country indicates that carbon dioxide in the destination country must be 181–228 €/t less expensive than that in the origin country, to balance out the more expensive shipping costs for hydrogen.

Funding source: This work is part of the C3-Mobility project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, with the number 19I18006.
Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: Germany

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