1990-05-01

Summary of the Fire Safety Impacts of Methanol as a Transportation Fuel 901113

Both for air quality and energy security reasons, a great deal of attention is currently being given to methanol as a candidate to complement petroleum to meet future transportation fuel needs. It is important that safety considerations also be taken into account when analyzing the appropriateness of alternative fuels such as methanol for use in the transportation sector. The current fire safety risk with gasoline is substantial: 216,000 fires resulting in 1,000 fatalities, 7,600 serious injuries, and $430 million in property damage. Due to the lower volatility and higher flammable limit of methanol, pure methanol (M100) is projected to result in as much as a 90 percent reduction in the number of automotive fuel related fires relative to gasoline. A smaller but significant reduction of 40 percent is projected for M85, a blend of 85 percent methanol and gasoline. Assuming that concerns over flame luminosity can be solved with a fuel additive, then due to the greatly reduced heat release rate from a fire, as much as a 95 percent reduction in fire related fatalities and injuries relative to gasoline may result with M100. As much as a 70 percent reduction in fatalities and injuries may be possible with M85. In addition to flame luminosity concerns, fuel tank flammability concerns also exist with M100. While a considerable difference of opinion exists on these issues, it is hoped that by implementing certain vehicle modifications and utilizing fuel additives, these concerns can be greatly reduced or eliminated.

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