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Dutch/Russian effort to commercialize new process to convert flared gas to gasoline via a DME pathway

The independent Dutch research organization TNO is working with the Russian A.V. Topchiev Institute for Petrochemical Synthesis (TIPS) on marketing a new technology developed by TIPS to convert flared gases into hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline. The new method offers a range of benefits compared with the common, but nearly hundred-year old, Fischer-Tropsch process, the partners said.

The conventional way to make gasoline from gas is to convert the gas to a synthesis gas, then into methanol, followed by conversion to straight-chain hydrocarbons and finally via reforming into a high-octane hydrocarbon blend. The method developed by TIPS skips the conversion into methanol; the synthesis gas is converted into dimethylether (DME) as the step preceding the direct synthesis of branched hydrocarbons with a high octane number.

In a paper published in January in the journal Petroleum Chemistry, members of the TIPS team reported on the catalytic properties of zeolites modified with titanium or with titanium and sulfur in the conversion of dimethyl ether (DME) to lower olefins and high-octane hydrocarbon components of gasoline. In that paper, they noted that:

Hydrocarbon synthesis from dimethyl ether (DME) over zeolite catalysts is more promising than the methanol process because the production of hydrocarbons from methanol is accompanied by the release of a great amount of heat and the selectivity for hydrocarbons is appreciably lower.

...Recently, researchers have paid a great deal of attention to the use of heterogeneous catalysts prepared from zeolite with titanium compounds. An oriented zeolite modification allows titanium to be introduced into the framework of molecular sieves; owing to this, the zeolite catalyst exhibits a unique catalytic activity in heavy organic synthesis processes.

...A new promising method for preparing titanium-containing catalysts is zeolite treatment with vapors of titanium compounds, such as titanium tetrachloride, followed by sulfation. In this study, the catalytic properties of titanium-containing zeolites and their sulfated forms prepared by zeolite treatment with vaporized modifiers have been examined in the DME conversion to hydrocarbons.

—Kolesnikova et al.

The TIPS catalytic converter delivers considerably better properties than those currently being used in the industry, TNO said.

The benefits of this are manifold. This method of conversion is much more effective and cheaper than the traditional method. To make petrol from gas, you want to minimize the number of unwanted substances like aromatics during the process and get close to the intended octane content. The TIPS catalytic converter is better in this and other respects than existing methods.

With TIPS, TNO now offers the industry worldwide a much more intelligent production process. Given the current low gas prices, this generates both technological and economic benefits. We want to develop the technology further in the field in partnership with industry. We will also be designing a mobile unit to convert gas into fuel at remote locations. The new method will lead to innovations in industry, new cleaner production processes and less harmful emissions.

—Dr. Jean-Marie Bassett, business development manager for TNO’s chemical sector

Flaring gas is a growing problem worldwide. This byproduct of oil production often is difficult to transport from remote locations. Moreover, its composition cannot always be used economically. Russia is one of the countries where this gas-flaring occurs most and the government wants to stop to it. Apart from the waste of gas, flaring produces many substances that are harmful to the environment.

TNO has had good relations with the Russian institute for some time, collaborating on a diversity of areas in the petrochemical field. TIPS is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences and has expertise in the fields of petrochemical engineering, oil refining, polymers, membrane and materials. TIPS has developed the new conversion method in recent years and has asked TNO to look for interested parties.

We already undertake research projects together on a regular basis but now we are complementing each other in a different way. TIPS does fundamental research while TNO develops applied knowledge. We have an extensive international network of industrial companies and research institutes, and know what their main interests are. Moreover, TIPS knows our reputation for project management, technological knowledge and marketing technologies.

—Dr. Jean-Marie Bassett


  • Kolesnikova, E.; Kitaev, L.; Biryukova, E.; Kolesnichenko, N.; Khadzhiev, S. (2013) Conversion of dimethyl ether to hydrocarbons over structurally organized zeolite catalysts modified with titanium and sulfur. Petroleum Chemistry Vol. 53 Issue 1, p33 doi: 10.1134/S0965544113010064





They should roll this out in North Dakota where flaring is rampant.

More importantly, if this turns out to be cheaper per MMBTU than exporting LNG, then why not use all that excess shale gas toward developing this gasoline derived from the DME pathway? It would help offset imports of petroleum (2/3 of all petroleum consumption goes toward transportation fuels anyway)!


That makes too much sense. The usual suspect will tell you that it is not 100% efficient and thus not worthy.

You lose 1/2 the energy going from fuel to electricity at a power plant, but losing any energy creating synthetic fuels is a sin.

Alex Kovnat

I cannot emphasize enough what an abomination it is, to flare gas when we are told that the world is coming to an end from global warming, or some other adverse consequence of carbon dioxide buildup in our atmosphere. I applaud efforts to use gas that would otherwise be wastefully flared. We must demand an end to flaring now.


With all the gas being flared in ND, why hasn't the entire agricultural sector in the upper Midwest converted to CNG/LNG fuel already?

The problem with creating synthetic liquid fuels from NG is that the NG is a better fuel, and burns cleaner to boot.  The most efficient way to employ NG to drive vehicles is to burn it in CCGT electric plants and take electricity to the vehicle; this can push 60% overall efficiency.

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