by Maria "Mark" Alovert of Local B100
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Methanol can be bought through several types of distributors, as it is sold for several different uses.
The price can vary from $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon. Methanol is made from natural gas and the price
fluctuates with the price of natural gas. It is sold either 'by the gallon' (ie bring your own gas cans)
or by the drum- 15, 30, or 55 gallon drums.
Test Batch Methanol
For test batches, we often use yellow bottle Heet brand gas line antifreeze (99% methanol) from auto parts stores
(seen on the left).
But for anything larger than a liter, you'll need to find a better supply.
Buying smallish quantities 'by the gallon' has some advantages over buying full drums-
buying only as much as you will use in a batch or two keeps you from storing large amounts of
a flammable substance and makes it easier to stay within the fire code requirements for residential
storage of flammables, and buying by the gallon makes it possible for people without pickup trucks to transport.
Buy a standard red gas can, or a thick HDPE carboy like the one on the left,
label it clearly as 'methanol' and be sure to store it such that no one accidentally tries
to use it as gasoline.
Left: Polyethylene Carboy from US Plastic
The precautions and regulations around handling and storing methanol are identical to those
for handling and storing gasoline.
To find methanol suppliers, I usually dig into the yellow pages and search several categories:
- Automotive Racing- The easiest place to find methanol is usually through
auto race tracks, racing engine builders, or performance shops.
These sources are likely to sell it 'by the gallon' although that is not always the case.
Some racetracks are seasonal.
Yellow Pages: Check performance, auto, racing, racetracks.
- Petroleum Distributors- Methanol is also an alternative fuel and is used in some
applications as a fuel additive. I've had good luck finding it by calling bulk petroleum
distributors. They are likely to carry it year-round, but are likely to sell only full drums.
If any of the places you call don't carry it ask them if they
know who does.
Yellow Pages: petroleum, fuel,
or gasoline, wholesale or bulk.
Between these two sources you should be able to find the stuff semi-locally.
If not, try these:
- Chemical Distributors- There are two major categories of chemical distributors;
places that cater to laboratories and researchers and places that cater to industry. The laboratory
supply houses usually sell everything at a premium. Industrial chemical supply houses are more affordable
but usually require a business license or other proof of legitimate business use. I have had good
luck faxing orders in beforehand using business letterhead (including non-chemical businesses like
construction companies, since that is the line of work I'm in). If they question what you're buying it
for, explain what you're doing- it should make sense to them. They're concerned about methamphetamine
labs and the like so they may seem leery of an obvious non-business user, but should understand if
you explain the fuel application.
Yellow Pages: Both types of chemical suppliers are usually listed together under 'chemicals'-
you just have to call about pricing to figure out if you can afford to deal with them, it's likely
to be higher than at a race fuel supply or a petroleum place.
- If in doubt, go to www.forums.biodieselnow.com
and ask your questions in the 'regional' forums for your area. Someone is likely to know where it's
available in your location.