CCS and Power Systems

Advanced Energy Systems - Coal and Coal/Biomass to Liquids

Methanol Economy

Performer: University of Southern California

Project No: FE0000435

Project Description

The USC Methanol Economy project will develop technology to convert anthropogenic CO2 from fuels combustion and natural gas into methanol. Methanol can be used as an internal combustion engine fuel, fuel cell fuel and a chemical precursor to di-methyl ether (DME). DME is a high-cetane diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) substitute. Methanol can be used as a feedstock for the production of transportation fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel. Since methanol is a liquid at ambient temperatures, it is a convenient medium for storing and transporting energy. Methanol is also a useful feedstock for the production of chemicals such as ethylene, propylene and formaldehyde, which are used in the plastics, chemical, plywood, paint, and textile industries.

Two methanol production methods of interest are direct conversion of methane (CH4) (the main component of natural gas) to methanol, and bi-reforming of CH4 and related hydrocarbons to methanol. The USC research team will investigate the direct pathway using electrophilic bromination of CH4 to methyl bromide followed by hydrolysis to produce methanol. Solid acidic catalysts for the bromination of CH4 will be engineered toward improving selectivity and reducing coke formation. USC will study the bi-reforming reaction for the production of syngas (a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that can be further converted to liquid fuels) by screening suitable alkali oxides, alkaline oxides, and metal oxides as catalysts. The produced syngas will have a hydrogen-to-carbon monoxide molar ratio of 2:1, which is appropriate for methanol production. The team will also study conversion of methanol to DME. The other area of focus is the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to either syngas or formic acid. Formic acid is a good source of hydrogen and a good fuel for fuel cells.

USC will also explore methods for efficiently capturing CO2 from power plants and other industrial sources for utilization in bi-reforming. In collaboration with on-going research at NETL, researchers will formulate, screen, and evaluate the use of regenerable amine and related sorbents on nanostructured supports, which can provide structural integrity and increased CO2 absorption capacity.

Project Details