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Natural Gas Upcycling

O and G icon The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) are currently focusing on the development of materials, equipment, and processes to enable flared, vented, or otherwise stranded natural gas to be “upcycled” to more transportable products with a higher market value. Successful technologies developed in this area will be integrated into small-scale modular systems that can be utilized on a wellpad scale as an effective means of upcycling associated natural gas that would otherwise be flared to value added products that continue to improve the economics and environmental impact of oil production.

Upcycling flameTechnologies developed as part of this effort will need to demonstrate proof-of-concept of modular process-intensified approaches to enable remote chemical processing at distributed upstream locations in the natural gas supply chain. Successful efforts in this area should stimulate follow-on research and development of advanced component fabrication that achieves economically-favorable commercialization at a small scale. Solving these challenges will require bringing together researchers from multiple disciplines to develop new technologies able to reduce gas flaring and exploit excess natural gas during oil and gas production, gas processing, and transmission.

DOE/NETL’s natural gas upcycling initiative aims to make natural gas upcycling commercially viable through multidisciplinary approaches enabling technological advancement across materials, equipment, and processes such as:Upcycling

  • Materials development that enables process intensification at the nano-scale towards improvements in catalyst activity, reduced catalyst deactivation, increases in product selectivity, and reduction in the severity of reactor operating conditions. This can include non-catalyst materials that enable improved heat transfer, flow rates, dispersion, or molecular separation.
  • Reactor and catalyst designs that target multiple high-value, transportable products such as, but not limited to, methanol, ethanol, ethylene glycol, acetic acid, C3 and C4 analogs, C4+ olefins, and aromatics.
  • Novel processes and catalyst materials that achieve high selectivity for the manufacture of high-value carbon materials such as, but not limited to, carbon nanofibers, carbon nanotubes, and graphene sheets.
  • Development of technologies that can leverage additive manufacturing, operate under conditions of varying feed rate and composition, use air directly as an oxygen source, make use of excess hydrogen to offset energy requirements, and show flexibility for producing a variety of products.

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