NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D., and Bryan Morreale, Ph.D., associate laboratory director for Research & Innovation, will take part in a keynote session on Saturday, April 24, at the 3rd Natural Gas Utilization Workshop held by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
The workshop, which will be a virtual event, will focus on emerging natural gas processing technologies, as well as challenges and opportunities facing the industry, the role of natural gas in a decarbonized economy and advances in conversion technologies.
NETL-supported technological advancements during the past decade, such as the development of hydraulic fracturing, have unlocked access to large reserves of domestic natural gas, which have played a major part in achieving vastly greater energy security for the U.S. The natural gas boom also profoundly impacted the chemicals marketplace, which today relies increasingly on natural gas as a product feedstock.
Anderson and Morreale will discuss NETL’s in-house and extramural research projects to convert natural gas into the chemical building blocks needed to manufacture higher value products and research that is underway to convert methane (the primary component in natural gas) to hydrogen for use as clean fuel.
Finding new expanded uses for natural gas is an NETL priority. In 2020, NETL established a key lab initiative calling for the development of a Center for Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals to position the U.S. as a world leader in the conversion of natural gas and its liquid components into the chemical feedstocks to manufacture an extensive list of commodities and consumer products.
The initiative also calls for the development of a technology incubation center and consortia that transforms the downstream chemical sector and advances far-term technologies to maturation.
Another strong area of NETL interest is methane pyrolysis, which splits methane into hydrogen and carbon.
This technology produces no direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and can be designed to produce different valuable carbon products such as nanotubes, carbon fibers and carbon black for applications that include building materials, electronics and manufacturing. Additionally, the process has the potential to serve as a low-carbon alternative to methane steam reforming for hydrogen generation.
“There is growing global interest in making a transformational switch to a hydrogen-based economy. When hydrogen is used in a fuel cell to create electricity, it is a completely clean technology. The only byproduct is water,” Anderson said. “Coupled with carbon capture and storage capabilities, low-cost hydrogen sourced from natural gas feedstocks will significantly reduce the levels of atmospheric CO2.”
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory develops and commercializes advanced technologies that provide clean energy while safeguarding the environment. NETL’s work supports DOE’s mission to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy and environmental challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.