The U.S. is in urgent need of alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuel. With gas prices routinely above $4 per gallon, and numerous known petroleum reserves held in geopolitically unstable regions, there is a need for investment in cost-effective alternative fuel sources, such as natural gas. These cost-efficiencies can be difficult to achieve, as many of our natural gas reserves are in geographically isolated areas. Developing small-scale, gas-to-liquid reactors that can be deployed in remote locations and produce cost-effective natural gas would go a long way toward replacing gasoline as our base transport fuel.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) is using nanotechnology to improve the structure of natural gas-to-liquids catalysts. The greatest difficulty in industrial-scale catalyst activity is temperature control, which can only be solved by improving reactor design. CU-Boulder’s newly structured catalyst creates a small-scale reactor for converting natural gas to liquid fuels that can operate at moderate temperatures. Additionally, CU-Boulder’s small-scale reactors could be located near remote, isolated sources of natural gas, further enabling their use as domestic fuel sources.
If successful, CU-Boulder’s small-scale reactors would improve the thermal stability of natural gas conversion systems, resulting in cost and production efficiencies over today’s best systems.
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.
Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are burned off, or “flared,” during petroleum refinery. Reactors that capture and convert natural gas into fuel would result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the refinery industry.
Widespread use of domestic natural gas as transportation fuel could decrease our foreign oil imports, allowing more of our dollars to stay at home.