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Methanol is probably the easiest burnable fuel to produce that is also sustainable. I'd like to produce electricity from methanol, using a device I'd call a 'Methanol Generator' - but I am struggling to find any such devices out there. Google is not helping.

Does an internal combustion engine (ICE) electrical generator that uses methanol as fuel exist? If nobody makes them, maybe a good solid methanol motor could be attached to a generator?

I don’t want a fuel cell, they are not ready for prime time. I'd be changing out membranes frequently. I've also considered solar and wind options - which are great, but I would also then require batteries for times when they are not generating, and batteries are also not ready for extensive use.

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    Hello and welcome! Your question is a bit unclear. Are you looking to generate electricity by burning methanol? This seems like a shopping question... can you explain the connection to sustainability?
    – LShaver
    Jul 5 '19 at 20:12
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    Just looking for a place to ask the question. Yes I just want a way to buy a generator that will run on methanol Jul 6 '19 at 3:38
  • Pretty much any gasoline engine can be adapted to run on methanol. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S036012851830042X
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 5 '20 at 22:45
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First of all "shopping questions" are off-topic on this website because answers are highly subjective with everyone wanting to contribute their favorite product. Also these answers tend to becoming spam magnets. That's why I won't provide any links to actual products here but instead provide some pointers that will help you search.

I suspect you are using the incorrect search terms; strictly speaking a methanol generator would be a device that generates methanol from some other substance. You probably want to search for "buy methanol fuel cell", optionally with the output level you require, or where you intend to use it (a mobile home, a boat?).

Most fuel cells you'll find on the internet are Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (a.k.a. DFMCs), ranging from from a few micro-Watt output up to 100 Watts or so.

You don't say anything about why you want to use methanol for electricity generation, or where the methanol is coming from. Although methanol can be synthesized from renewable resources, it is often derived from fossil fuels so the solution you have in mind may not be the most sustainable one.

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  • Methanol is probably the easiest fuel to produce. I don’t want a fuel cell, I want an ICE electrical generator that uses methanol as fuel. The whole reason I would want one is that it would be sustainable. Fuel cells are not ready for prime time. You’d be changing out membranes frequently. Solar and wind are great, but batteries are also not ready for extensive use. Jul 6 '19 at 20:27
  • @KerryThurber I know that some electrical companies started using electricity generators running on methanol only a few years ago, so that's for large-scale energy production. AFAIK generators for consumers / small-scale usage do not exist yet. I suspect it has something to do with the corrosive nature of methanol. BTW wood, vegetable oil and ethanol are easier (and safer!) to produce than methanol.
    – THelper
    Jul 7 '19 at 7:11
  • Great! Do you know of a specific electrical company that would be willing to talk? Wood alcohol is the same thing as methanol. (Did you mean just wood and use some sort of steam engine equivalent?) Vegetable oil can be used to produce diesel, but you have to grow the vegetables buy the materials for esterification, which usually includes methanol. Ethanol is almost the same process but has to be fermented first. Methanol and ethanol are both corrosive, which means the engine needs to be specially made. I’m trying to ascertain how durable and economical such an engine could be. Jul 7 '19 at 14:32
  • @KerryThurber I tried to find my original source where I read about electrical companies starting using methanol but couldn't find it anymore. I did however find this presentation. It's about how a company called 'Dor Group' converted a steam boiler to use methanol for the Israel Electric Company. I did mean plain old wood and not wood alcohol. You can use wood to power a wood gas generator
    – THelper
    Jul 10 '19 at 7:01
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Methanol is probably the easiest burnable fuel to produce that is also sustainable.

No it isn't.

The only sustainable fuels that can scale to the needed amounts are invariably based on wind/solar electricity that is used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen in electrolysis cells. The easiest fuel to produce that is sustainable is hydrogen.

The second easiest fuel to produce that may be sustainable (if you have a source of enough sustainable CO2) is methane. To produce methane, you need to combine carbon dioxide and hydrogen in a Sabatier reactor. The downside of methane is that burning it releases carbon dioxide, so to make it truly sustainable you need to get that CO2 from a sustainable source. The problem? If you capture all CO2 emitted by the factories of the forestry industry (producing pulp, paper, etc), you will quickly see that the amount of CO2 captured isn't enough to make enough methane to cover all energy uses of oil and natural gas today.

So methane is sustainable if you limit its use to only some critical areas like air and naval traffic. Usage in road transportation is already too much, the amount of sustainable CO2 is not enough to produce enough methanol to be used in road transportation.

Producing methanol and other liquid hydrocarbons requires even more steps than producing methane or hydrogen. The cost to produce these sustainably is probably so high that the market isn't willing to pay the cost, instead preferring hydrogen or direct electricity and in some limited cases methane.

Does an internal combustion engine (ICE) electrical generator that uses methanol as fuel exist?

Oh yes. Large internal combustion engines can burn any combustible liquid or gas. Gasoline, methanol, ethanol, diesel, heavy fuel oil, methane, hydrogen.

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