[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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
New low-temperature catalytic process for producing hydrogen from methanol; potential future application for fuel cell vehicles
February 28, 2013
|(a) Schematic pathway for a homogeneously catalyzed methanol reforming process via three discrete dehydrogenation steps. (b) Best performing catalysts. Nielsen et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from Germany and Italy have developed an efficient low-temperature catalytic process to produce hydrogen from methanol. Hydrogen generation by this method proceeds at 65–95 °C (149-203 °F) and ambient pressure with excellent catalyst turnover frequencies (4,700 per hour) and turnover numbers (exceeding 350,000). This could make the delivery of hydrogen on mobile devices—and hence the use of methanol as a practical hydrogen carrier—eventually feasible, the team suggests in a paper published in the journal Nature.
One of the challenges to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is the efficient on-board storage of adequate amounts of the hydrogen gas required for fuel cell operation due to the properties of the gas. Methanol conceptually is an interesting alternative, as it is a liquid at room temperature (easier transportation and handling) and contains 12.6% hydrogen. However, current methanol reforming technologies for the production of hydrogen are conducted at high temperatures (> 200 °C) and high pressures (25–50 bar), limiting potential mobile applications of “so-called reformed methanol fuel cells”, they note.
New catalyst for efficient bi-reforming of methane from any source for methanol and hydrocarbon synthesis; “metgas”
December 30, 2012
Researchers at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, have developed a new catalyst based on nickel oxide on magnesium oxide (NiO/MgO) that is effective for the bi-reforming with steam and CO2 (combined steam and dry reforming) of methane as well as natural gas in a tubular flow reactor at elevated pressures (5−30 atm) and temperatures (800−950 °C).
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they report that the bi-reforming effectively converts methane and its natural sources (natural or shale gas, coal-bed methane, methane hydrates) to what they call “metgas”, a 2/1 H2/CO mixture directly applicable for subsequent well-studied methanol synthesis with high selectivity. A typical single pass conversion at 7 atm is about 70−75%, which can be increased to 80−85% by adjusting the feed gas composition. Unreacted feed gases can be recycled.
Sundrop Fuels finalizes ExxonMobil MTG technology license for “green gasoline” production facility
June 28, 2012
|The ExxonMobil MTG process flow diagram. Source: EMRE. Click to enlarge.|
Sundrop Fuels, Inc., a gasification-based drop-in advanced biofuels company, finalized a licensing agreement to use ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology to be incorporated into a “green gasoline” production facility. Located near Alexandria, Louisiana, Sundrop Fuels plans to break ground late this year on its inaugural commercial plant, which will produce up to 50 million gallons of renewable gasoline annually. (Earlier post.)
The Sundrop Fuels installation represents the first commercial production of biofuels using the MTG process. The MTG technology was originally developed in the 1970s and was successfully commercialized for a large-scale natural gas to gasoline plant during the 1980s in New Zealand.