As a natural by-product of the petroleum extraction process, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are burned off, or “flared,” each year because natural gas can be expensive to store and transport for later use. This practice is both harmful to the environment and inefficient—by some accounts, the amount of natural gas flared each year is equivalent to 20% of U.S. electricity generation. There is a need to develop technologies to capture this natural gas for use as additional energy sources or convert it into useful chemicals that can be utilized by other industrial markets.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Ceramatec is developing a small-scale reactor to convert natural gas into benzene—a feedstock for industrial chemicals or liquid fuels. Natural gas as a byproduct is highly abundant, readily available, and inexpensive. Ceramatec’s reactor will use a one-step chemical conversion process to convert natural gas into benzene. This one-step process is highly efficient and prevents the build-up of solid residue that can occur when gas is processed. The benzene that is produced can be used as a starting material for nylons, polycarbonates, polystyrene, epoxy resins, and as a component of gasoline.
If successful, Ceramatec’s one-step gas-to-benzene conversion process would reduce unnecessary waste and limit the environmental impact of flaring.
Increasing the utility of geographically isolated natural gas reserves would decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil—the transportation sector is the dominant source of this dependence.
Reactors that capture and convert natural gas into fuel or other useful chemicals would result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the refinery industry.
The use of benzene-based industrial products and fuel mixtures could eventually result in lower costs for consumers, alleviating some of the pain at the pump and at the store counter.