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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

New nickel-gallium catalyst could lead to low-cost, clean production of methanol; small-scale, low-pressure devices

March 03, 2014

Scientists from Stanford University, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Technical University of Denmark have identified a new nickel-gallium catalyst that converts hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methanol at ambient pressure and with fewer side-products than the conventional catalyst. The results are published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

The researchers identified the catalyst through a descriptor-based analysis of the process and the use of computational methods to identify Ni-Ga intermetallic compounds as stable candidates with good activity. After synthesizing and testing a series of catalysts, they found that Ni5Ga3 is particularly active and selective. Comparison with conventional Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalysts revealed the same or better methanol synthesis activity, as well as considerably lower production of CO.

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DOE soliciting projects in advanced coal gasification for high carbon-capture power production and/or liquid fuels

February 26, 2014

The US DOE is soliciting (DE-FOA-0001051) projects for up to $10 million in awards to target technological advancements to lower the cost of producing hydrogen and/or high-hydrogen syngas from coal for use in 90% carbon capture power generation and/or gasification-based liquid (transportation) fuel production: methanol or diesel. Liquid fuel production must be GHG equivalent to conventional petroleum-based processes.

The work is also designed to assure significant reduction in the cost of coal conversion and environmental impacts, enabling coal resources to both improve US economic competitiveness and provide environmental benefits over the globe, according to the DOE.

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Converting glycerol from biodiesel production into bio-gasoline

December 16, 2013

A team at the University of Idaho has demonstrated that glycerol, a byproduct from biodiesel production, could be used as a substrate for producing drop-in gasoline-range biofuel. In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, Guanqun Luo and Armando G. McDonald describe their study of converting methanol (MTG) and a mixture of methanol and glycerol (MGTG) into gasoline-range hydrocarbons using a bench-top, fixed-bed microreactor.

The MTG- and MGTG-generated liquids showed a similar composition, mainly methylbenzenes, to regular gasoline, and composition changed as the reaction proceeded to favor heavier aromatics.

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MAN Diesel & Turbo announces new ME-LGI dual-fuel engine for methanol and LPG; Waterfront Shipping signs LOI for four units

July 12, 2013

New fuel booster valve for ME-LGI engine showing the main constituent parts. Click to enlarge.

On 1 July MAN Diesel & Turbo announced the development of a new ME-LGI dual fuel engine. The new engine expands the company’s dual-fuel portfolio, enabling the use of more sustainable fuels such as methanol and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

MAN has now signed a Letter of Intent with Vancouver-based Waterfront Shipping for the use of four MAN ME-LGI engines on its ships. The engines will run on a blend of 95% methanol and 5% diesel fuel.

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VTT study concludes gasification-based pathways can deliver low-carbon fuels from biomass for about 1.90-2.65 US$/gallon

July 04, 2013

Summary of levelized production cost estimates of fuel (LCOF) for the examined plant designs. The horizontal red lines show the comparable price of gasoline (before tax, refining margin 0.3 $/gal, exchange rate: 1 € = 1.326 $) with crude oil prices 100 $/bbl and 150 $/bbl. Source: VTT.

A study by researchers at Finland’s VTT has concluded that it is possible to produce sustainable low-carbon fuels from lignocellulosic biomass for as estimated gasoline-equivalent production cost of 0.5–0.7 €/liter (app. 1.90-2.65 US$/gallon US), with first-law process efficiency in the range of 49.6–66.7%—depending on the end-product and process conditions. Should the thermal energy produced as a by-product be exploited for district heat or industrial steam, the overall efficiency from biomass to salable energy products could reach 74–80%.

In their study, Ilkka Hannula & Esa Kurkela evaluated 20 individual biomass-to-liquids BTL plant designs based on their technical and economic performance. The investigation was focused on gasification-based processes that enable the conversion of biomass to methanol, dimethyl ether, Fischer-Tropsch liquids or synthetic gasoline at a large (300 MWth of biomass) scale.

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German researchers improve catalyst for steam reforming of methanol with salt coating; enabler for renewable energy storage systems

April 19, 2013

Researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany) report in the journal Angewandte Chemie their development of an enhanced platinum catalyst for the steam reforming of methanol to release hydrogen.

A central problem of renewable energy technology lies in the great variation of energy generated (i.e., intermittency). One proposed solution is methanol-based hydrogen storage. In this scenario, excess renewable electricity can be used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen, in turn, is then reacted with carbon dioxide to make methanol and water, thus allowing it to be stored as a liquid. The hydrogen can be released from the methanol at a later time to power a fuel cell.

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Primus Green Energy to support gas-to-liquids research at Princeton University; comparing STG+ to other GTL platforms

March 28, 2013

Schematic diagram of the Primus STG+ process. Click to enlarge.

Primus Green Energy Inc., developer of a proprietary process to produce gasoline and other fuels from biomass and/or natural gas (earlier post), will provide financial support to engineers at Princeton University for general research on synthetic fuels, which will include assessments of various gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies—including Primus’ own STG+—for sustainability and economic viability.

STG+ technology converts syngas into drop-in high-octane gasoline and jet fuel with a conversion efficiency of ~35% by mass of syngas into liquid transportation fuels (the highest documented conversion efficiency in the industry) or greater than 70% by mass of natural gas. The fuels produced from the Primus STG+ technology are very low in sulfur and benzene compared to fuels produced from petroleum, and they can be used directly in vehicle engines as a component of standard fuel formulas and transported via the existing fuel delivery infrastructure.

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Researchers develop high-rate, high-yield bacterial process to convert methane to methanol

March 22, 2013

Cartoon of the process. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Columbia University have developed a biological process utilizing autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) for the conversion of methane (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In fed-batch reactors using mixed nitrifying enrichment cultures from a continuous bioreactor, up to 59.89 ± 1.12 mg COD/L (COD = chemical oxygen demand, an indirect measurement of organic compounds in water) of CH3OH was produced within an incubation time of 7 h—approximately 10x the yield obtained previously using pure cultures of Nitrosomonas europaea. The maximum specific rate of CH4 to CH3OH conversion obtained during this study was 0.82 mg CH3OH COD/mg AOB biomass COD-d—1.5x times the highest value reported with pure cultures.

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China-US team concludes duckweed biorefineries can be cost-competitive with petroleum-based processes

March 07, 2013

Researchers from the US and China have determined that a duckweed biorefinery producing a range of gasoline, diesel and kerosene products can be economically competitive with petroleum-based processes, even in some cases without environmental legislation that penalizes greenhouse gas emissions. A paper describing their analysis of four different scenarios for duckweed biorefineries is published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on or near the surface of still or slow-moving freshwater, is attractive as a raw material for biofuel production. It grows fast, thrives in wastewater that has no other use, does not impact the food supply and can be harvested more easily than algae and other aquatic plants. However, few studies have been done on the use of duckweed as a raw material for biofuel production.

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