Methanol (CH3OH) is a simple one-carbon alcohol that is a colourless and tasteless liquid with a faint odour. Other names are Methyl-alcohol and Wood-alcohol. It is most commonly produced from natural gas but can also be derived from renewable bio-feedstocks and from coal through gazification.

Methanol is a basic building bloc and a raw material for many derivatives in the chemical industry. It is used to produce formaldehyde, acetic acid and a variety of other chemical intermediates. These derivatives are ultimately used in the manufacture of countless products that we find in our everyday lives, including: resins, adhesives, paints, inks, foams, silicones, plastic bottles, polyester, solvents and windshield washer fluid. A significant amount of methanol is also used to make MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), an additive used in cleaner burning gasoline. In the latter years DME (di methyl ether) has emerged as an alternative clean burning fuel. Methanol is also widely considered to be a potential hydrogen carrier for many future fuel cell applications.

Worldwide consumption of methanol has passed 40 million tons annually which ranks it among the top 4 globally used chemicals.


The evolution of the market ( development of world scale plants in remote areas, the necessity to transport the Methanol over the ocean in big dedicated vessels, increasing swapped quantities …) was the background for IMPCA to reconsider the available specifications. Some years ago consumers had to buy mainly according to the well-known ASTM 1152. But ASTM stands for the American Standard Test Method which is based on local American situation where the means of transportation are mainly rail or road tank car or barges over sweet water rivers. No attention had been given to possible sea water contamination. New technologies and new applications as well as new regulations (e.g. ISO 9000) also create need for more detailed specifications. IMPCA decided in 1992 to create a Specification Subcommittee with representatives of both manufacturers and end users, assisted by a chemical engineer from an independent well known surveyor company operating all over the world. After having collected all possible information from producers, traders, transporters and end users the subcommittee tried to establish a specification which could be met and accepted by the main producers in the world taking into consideration the requested items from the downstream applications .We avoided to create a " second grade " Methanol or to influence production or competition by putting limits too marginal. Then we compared our conclusions with the known ASTM 1152 and incorporated as much as possible the already existing ASTM Test Methods. When they were not existing we had to come up with new Test Method under IMPCA nomination (IMPCA 001 , 002, 003, 004) Our aim was to try to reach a certain consensus between producers and traders who want a specification as wide as possible and consumers who want a specification as tight as possible. IMPCA specification is not and will not pretend to be a specific one, ruling for the industry. It is a REFERENCE SPECIFICATION. Any specific request has to be dealt with on a contractual basis between a consumer and a supplier. The subcommittee is at the service of the members: it welcomes the remarks and try to answer; it follows the evolution : limits as well as methods are changing due to new equipment and new technologies ;a follow up of the ASTM is also in place so to inform the members of the last reviews (they can even be consulted on www.astm.org). We are pleased that today, in many parts of the world, Methanol is sold under the IMPCA Reference Specifications.