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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.]

EERC working with Fuel Cell Energy on $3.5M ARPA-E project for electrochemical cell to convert natural gas to methanol

August 29, 2015

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is working with FuelCell Energy, Inc., an integrated stationary fuel cell manufacturer, to develop a durable, low-cost, and high-performance electrochemical cell to convert natural gas and other methane-rich gas into methanol, a major chemical commodity with worldwide applications in the production of liquid fuels, solvents, resins, and polymers.

The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) awarded $3,500,000 to the project, led by Fuel Cell Energy, as part of its REBELS (Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems) program. (Earlier post.) The project is directed at developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that would directly convert methane to methanol and other liquid fuels using advanced metal catalysts.

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Tsinghua studies on alcohol-gasoline dual fuel engines show fuel efficiency and particle number benefits

August 10, 2015

Researchers at Tsinghua University in China are studying the effects of Dual-Fuel Spark Ignition (DFSI) combustion fueled with different alcohols and gasoline. In one paper, published in the journal Fuel, they investigated the use of alcohols–gasoline DFSI Combustion for knock suppression and high fuel efficiency using a gasoline engine with high compression ratio.

In a second paper, also published in Fuel, they systematically compared the stoichiometric alcohol–gasoline and gasoline–alcohol DFSI combustion for engine particle number (PN) reduction (and fuel economy improvement), also using a high compression ratio gasoline engine.

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Argonne team finds copper cluster catalyst effective for low-pressure conversion of CO2 to methanol with high activity

August 07, 2015

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have identified a new material to catalyze the conversion of CO2 via hydrogenation to methanol (CH3OH): size-selected Cu4 clusters—clusters of four copper atoms each, called tetramers—supported on Al2O3 thin films.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the team measured catalytic activity under near-atmospheric reaction conditions with a low CO2 partial pressure, and investigated the oxidation state of the clusters using in situ grazing incidence X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Results indicated that size-selected Cu4 clusters are the most active low-pressure catalyst for catalytic conversion of CO2to methanol; Density functional theory calculations revealed that Cu4 clusters have a low activation barrier for the conversion. The results suggest, they concluded, that small copper clusters may be excellent and efficient catalysts for the recycling of released CO2.

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Geely invests in Carbon Recycling Intl.; vehicles fueled by methanol from CO2, water and renewable energy

July 08, 2015

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Group) will invest a total of US$45.5 million in Carbon Recycling International (CRI). The investment consists of an initial investment and additional purchases of CRI equity over a 3-year period. Geely Group will become a major shareholder of CRI and will gain representation on the company’s Board of Directors.

CRI, founded in 2006 in Reykjavik, Iceland, is developing technology to produce renewable methanol from clean energy and recycled CO2 emissions. Geely Group and CRI intend to collaborate on the deployment of renewable methanol fuel production technology in China and explore the development and deployment of 100% methanol-fueled vehicles in China, Iceland and other countries. The companies say they a vision for a larger role for methanol as a clean and sustainable fuel worldwide.

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Hydrogenics to supply 1MW electrolyzer to project converting CO2 to methanol; Power-to-Gas

January 26, 2015

Hydrogenics Corporation will supply a 1MW electrolyzer and provide engineering expertise to a consortium of companies working on the European project MefCO2 (methanol fuel from CO2) in Germany. The application will take excess electricity from intermittent renewable energy sources, generate green hydrogen, and then create methanol using a low-carbon footprint production plant and carbon dioxide emissions from an existing coal-fired power plant in Essen, Germany owned by STEAG Gmbh, which operates a number of regional power plants and distributed energy facilities.

CO2 will be captured from the flue gases in a special downstream flue gas scrubber (Post-Combustion Capture, PCC). The Hydrogenics electrolyzer will produce 200 cubic meters of hydrogen per hour. The hydrogen and captured carbon dioxide will then be catalytically converted into methanol, with a daily yield of approximately one ton of methanol using approximately 1.4 tonnes of CO2.

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Researchers ID structure of key intermediate in enzyme converting methane to methanol; potential for synthetic fuels

A team from the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University has identified the structure of the key intermediate “Q” in the enzyme methane monooxygenase (MMO). MMO catalyzes the O2-dependent conversion of methane to methanol in methanotrophic bacteria, thereby preventing the emission into the atmosphere of approximately one billion tons of this potent greenhouse gas annually.

Q is one of the most powerful oxidizing intermediates occurring in nature. Exploiting this extreme oxidizing potential is of great interest for bioremediation and the development of synthetic approaches to methane-based alternative fuels and chemical industry feedstocks, the authors noted in their paper, published in the journal Nature. The insight gained into the formation and reactivity of Q from the structure reported is an important step towards harnessing this potential, the authors suggested.

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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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