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Methanol

[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.]

UCLA researchers develop synthetic biocatalytic pathway for more efficient conversion of methanol to longer-chain fuels

November 18, 2014

Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science led by Dr. James Liao have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The UCLA team constructed a synthetic biocatalytic pathway that efficiently converts methanol under room temperature and ambient atmospheric pressures to higher-chain alcohols or other higher carbon compounds without carbon loss or ATP expenditure.

Building off their previous work in creating a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels (earlier post), the researchers modified the non-oxidative glycolysis pathway to utilize methanol instead of sugar. An open-access paper on the research was published in the 11 Nov. edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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EPA finalizes GHG permit for $1B gas-to-gasoline plant in Texas; 8M barrels per year

October 03, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Natgasoline LLC to construct a new motor-grade gasoline production facility in Texas that uses natural gas as feedstock (gas-to-gasoline, or GtG).

Natgasoline is a new wholly owned greenfield methanol production complex being developed by OCI N.V. The proposed new GtG facility will comprise two main process operations: a methanol plant with a capacity of almost 1.75 million metric tons of methanol per year, and the methanol-to-gasoline plant (MTG), which will produce more than 8 million barrels of gasoline per year. The methanol plant will use natural gas delivered by pipeline as feedstock; the MTG plant will primarily use methanol from the methanol unit, but can also process methanol from other manufacturers.

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Maverick Synfuels introduces affordable small-scale methane gas-to-liquid modular methanol plants

September 26, 2014

Maverick Synfuels (earlier post) introduced a small-scale, modular methane-to-methanol production plant that can be co-located at the methane source. The Maverick Oasis system allows producers to monetize biogas and natural gas (including associated or flare gas, and stranded gas reserves), as an alternative to producing electricity or venting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The Maverick Oasis factory-built Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) methanol plants are modular, and can be rapidly deployed onsite to produce thousands of gallons per day of methanol from natural gas or methane-rich waste gas. The plants are designed to be low-cost, highly efficient facilities optimized to generate an attractive project rate of return. Each Oasis modular facility comes equipped with performance guarantees based on the designed methanol output rating.

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ORNL study finds best current use of natural gas for cars is efficient production of electricity for EVs

September 24, 2014

Curran
Top: Components of well-to-wheels pathway. Middle: WTW efficiency for CNGVs. Bottom: WTW efficiency for EVs. Curran et al. Click to enlarge.

A well-to-wheels analysis of the use of natural gas for passenger vehicles by a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has found that, with a high PTW (pump-to-wheels) efficiency and the potential for high electrical generation efficiency with NGCC (natural gas combined cycle) turbines, natural gas currently is best used in an efficient stationary power application for charging EVs.

However, they also noted, high PTW efficiencies and the moderate fuel economies of current compressed natural gas vehicles (CNGVs) make them a viable option as well. If CNG were to be eventually used in hybrids, the advantage of the electric generation/EV option shrinks. Their open access paper is published in the journal Energy.

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New catalytic system for conversion of CO2 to methanol shows much higher activity than others now in use

August 01, 2014

Figure1-microscope-image-hr
Scanning tunneling microscope image of a cerium-oxide and copper catalyst (CeOx-Cu) used in the transformation of CO2 and H2 to methanol (CH3OH) and water. In the presence of hydrogen, the Ce4+ and Cu1+ are reduced to Ce3+ and Cu0 with a change in the structure of the catalyst surface. Source: BNL. Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, with colleagues from the University of Seville (Spain) and Universidad Central de Venezuela, have discovered a new, highly active catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide to methanol.

The pure metals and bimetallic systems used for the chemical activation of CO2 usually have low catalytic activity; the new system exhibits significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use. The new catalyst system converts CO2 to methanol more than a thousand times faster than plain copper particles, and almost 90 times faster than a common copper/zinc-oxide catalyst currently in industrial use.

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Study for European Parliament assesses options for turning CO2 into methanol for use in transport

May 25, 2014

Master.img-029
Carbon dioxide recycling in the methanol economy Source: Olah et al. 2009, earlier post. Click to enlarge.

A report prepared by ISIS (Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems - Italy) together with Tecnalia (Spain) for the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) discusses the technological, environmental and economic barriers for producing methanol from carbon dioxide, as well as the possible uses of methanol in car transport in Europe.

The study evaluated costs and benefits from a life cycle perspective in order to compare various raw materials for producing methanol and in order to reflect the potential benefits of methanol obtained from CO2. The report concluded that benefits in the medium- and long-term can be anticipated since the obtaining of an alternative fuel using a residual greenhouse gas would allow European dependence on conventional fossil fuels to be cut, and that way the risks in supply security to be minimized.

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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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