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NR Canada seeking commercialization partner for methane oxidation catalyst

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is seeking expressions of interest from firms which wish to enter into a commercial licensing arrangement to bring to market its methane oxidation catalyst. This technology has applications to the automotive industry and other sectors covered by regulations that control methane emissions.

NRCan said the ideal licensee would be a Canadian distributor for this technology and would have the capacity for commissioning, manufacture, marketing, and sales.

The ideal licensee would be primarily engaged in manufacturing engine parts and systems, such as catalytic converters and engine exhaust control systems, for the on-road vehicle, off-road vehicle and stationary power sectors.

NRCan has filed international patent applications in Canada, US, Germany, India and Sweden, for a robust methane oxidation catalyst that reduces unburned methane contained in exhaust streams (methane slip) from lean burn natural gas vehicles/engines. The catalyst resembles those used in conventional catalytic converters and has been assembled in a simple prototype catalytic converter for on-engine testing.

The NRCan catalyst uses a support of alumina doped with lanthanum, loaded with platinum and palladium as active phases. This catalyzes the oxidation of methane to carbon dioxide and water using excess oxygen in the exhaust stream. The Swedish patent has been accepted and the others are still in process.

Companies interested in commercializing the NRCan technology must submit a letter of interest to NRCan on or before 24 January 2020. Preference will be given to Canadian companies, but US and foreign companies will also be considered, provided that such foreign companies demonstrate a benefit to Canada.

Background. Lean burn natural gas engines are similar in performance to diesel engines and can be used in a wide variety of transportation applications such as light and medium duty vehicles, power generators, vocational and long haul trucks, and ships. Natural gas engines offer a cleaner alternative than diesel and gasoline engines, producing approximately 20 to 25% less greenhouse gases (GHG) on a life-cycle basis due to the low carbon content of methane.

However, lean burn natural gas engines suffer from high levels of unburned methane in the exhaust. Because methane is a potent GHG (86 times GHG impact compared to CO2 over a 20-year period), unburned methane in natural gas vehicle exhaust can negate its GHG benefit. Methane in the exhaust at such dilute concentrations does not combust on its own. While it is possible to calibrate lean burn engine combustion to meet a methane emissions target, this comes at the expense of adversely impacting engine efficiency and other regulated emissions (e.g., NOx).

To solve the methane slip problem, CanmetENERGY is offering a method for reducing unburned methane in a gas stream resulting from methane combustion in a lean burn natural gas engine. The exhaust stream contains sulfur and water, known inhibitors for conventional methane oxidation catalysts. To overcome this limitation, CanmetENERGY has developed a robust catalyst system that is not inhibited.

The manufacture of the catalyst system begins with a conventional monolith-type catalytic converter core, which is then coated with the methane oxidation catalyst. The catalyst itself is composed of platinum and palladium as the active phases on a support of alumina doped with lanthanum. This catalyst causes unburnt methane (the methane slip) in the lean burn engine exhaust to oxidize using excess oxygen, to make carbon dioxide and water, thereby reducing the level of methane.

As an example of the robust performance, the catalyst was tested with synthetic lean burn natural gas engine exhaust that contained 10% water and 10 ppm sulfur for 500 hours at 500 ˚C, conditions which accelerate aging effects. After this period, the catalyst retained its initial activity. It has also been assembled and tested as a prototype catalytic converter installed on a lean burn natural gas engine. The catalyst is now ready for detailed on-engine testing in anticipation of design and commissioning for manufacture.

NRCan intends to provide technical support for the subsequent phases of testing.


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