Natural Gas to Liquids Membranes Bring the Breakthrough for Gas-To-Liquids Conversion without CO2 Emission

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Gas-to-liquids conversion processes are in high demand due to the ongoing rise of shale gas – yet, they are typically energy intensive and cause a lot of CO2 emissions. Now, a ceramics specialist has teamed up with a Norwegian university and a Spanish research institute to develop a new, efficient conversion process. Their new ceramic membrane virtually eliminates the problems with CO2-emisssions typically found in GTL processes…

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Golden, Colorado/USA — Engineered ceramic-based conversion approach offers a lower cost, cleaner process for producing a range of chemicals from abundant natural gas: Coors Tek, a leading engineered ceramics manufacturer, today announced that a team of scientists from Coors Tek Membrane Sciences, the University of Oslo (Norway), and the Instituto de Tecnología Química (Spain) has developed a new process to use natural gas as raw material for aromatic chemicals.

The process uses a novel ceramic membrane to make the direct, non-oxidative conversion of gas to liquids possible for the first time — reducing cost, eliminating multiple process steps, and avoiding any carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The resulting aromatic precursors are source chemicals for insulation materials, plastics, textiles, and jet fuel, among other valuable products.

Direct activation of methane, the main component of biogas and natural gas, has been a key goal of the hydrocarbon research community for decades. This new process is detailed in the August 5, 2016 edition of Science, in a research paper entitled “Direct conversion of methane to aromatics in a catalytic co-ionic membrane reactor”.

“Consider the scale of the oil, gas, and petrochemicals industry today”, says Dr. Jose Serra, Professor with Instituto de Tecnología Química (ITQ) in Valencia, Spain, a leading research lab for hydrocarbon catalysis and a co-author of the report in Science. “With new ceramic membrane reactors to make fuels and chemicals from natural gas instead of crude oil, the whole hydrocarbon value chain can become significantly less expensive, cleaner, and leaner.”

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“By using a ceramic membrane that simultaneously removes hydrogen and injects oxygen, we have been able to make liquid hydrocarbons directly from methane in a one-step process. As a bonus, the process also generates a high-purity hydrogen stream as a byproduct,” explains Professor Serra.

“At a macro level it is really very simple – inexpensive, abundant gas in and valuable liquid out through a clean, inexpensive process. At a nanochemistry level, however, where molecules interact with catalyst and membrane at a temperature around 700 °C, there were many factors to engineer and control in order to render just the specific valuable molecules needed to make the new process work.”

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