Another of those “links from somewhere” where I’ve lost track of who / what pointed me to it… Again, if it was you, speak up.
There is a small start up in the San Francisco Bay Area that is working on new and interesting catalysts. (Were I to bet on what new tech matters most, it would be novel ways to do chemical and energy catalysis…)
They claim to have found a couple of catalysts that, used one after the other, give you gasoline from natural gas at about $1 / gallon. That is actually possible.
Natural Gas is presently selling for about $3.74 / MMBTU (that’s 1000 x 1000 BTU or one Million BTU).
Gasoline has about 111 to 114 thousand BTU / gallon.
So it’s about 9 Gallons of Gasoline Equivalent (GGE) per MMBTU of natural gas. That makes that gas about 41 ¢ per GGE. At that rate, you can have a 2.5 to 1 conversion loss and still end up at $1.02 / gallon.
Now, prior to fracking, CNG spiked up to about $12 / MMBTU (or about $1.33 / GGE) and at that point it would be about $3.36 / gallon after the conversion. So as soon as this is widely used, expect abnormally low natural gas prices to rise back to an arbitrage equilibrium price.
So my ‘net net’ on this would just be that while it is a way cool tech, and can make gasoline really cheap at present prices (and ought to be done), it isn’t a panacea. Eventually prices will approximate with each other. Still, that would involve some drop in gasoline prices and a large rise in natural gas prices. For some gas, like stranded gas in Alaska where a pipeline can be way too expensive to build: conversion to gasoline or Diesel and local trucking / sales would be a marvelous thing to do.
From the original news link:
Siluria turns natural gas into gasoline for $1 per gallon
Siluria partners with oil industry giants to make fuels cheaply
David R. Baker Updated 8:55 am, Thursday, August 21, 2014
The clear liquid flowing from a collection of pipes and wires in a Hayward industrial park smells just like gasoline, and for all practical purposes, it is.
But it wasn’t made from crude oil. Instead, it came from natural gas, the fuel whose sudden abundance in America is reshaping the country’s energy landscape.
Siluria Technologies says it can produce large quantities of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and chemicals at a lower cost than traditional refineries and chemical plants. At today’s natural gas prices, Siluria’s technology could make gasoline at roughly $1 per gallon, according to the company.
The oil industry has taken notice. Siluria reported Wednesday that its latest, $30 million fundraising round was led by Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company.
Aramco will join Siluria’s board of directors and has put together a team studying ways to deploy the technology in Saudi Arabia. Founded in 2008, Siluria has now raised $96 million from such investors as Bright Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Lux Capital.
I find the Aramco participation a bit of a worry. They poo-poo such concerns and assert it’s all going to be just fine… but ARAMCO will always be more interested in Arabian interests than the interests of US Drivers.
Still, a technology once it exists can always be used by a country in an emergency without the consent of the inventors. Though I doubt our gutless congress would ever think of doing such a thing…
A visit to their web site: http://siluria.com/Technology/Oxidative_Coupling_of_Methane gives some interesting technical details:
Oxidative Coupling of Methane
The oxidative coupling of methane has been the target of intense scientific and commercial interest for more than thirty years due to the tremendous potential of the technology to reduce costs, energy, and environmental emissions in the production of ethylene. In OCM, methane (CH4) and oxygen (O2) react over a catalyst exothermically to form ethylene (C2H4), water (H2O) and heat
Siluria combines several highly innovative technologies to create our growing family of commercially viable OCM catalysts. These technologies include: (1) the synthesis of nanowire catalysts allowing us to create vast numbers of unique, novel inorganic nanowire structures; (2) unique templating technologies; and (3) high throughput screening tools to rapidly evaluate hundreds of catalysts, unlike traditional methods that evaluate one catalyst at a time.
Siluria focused on all key process variables such as temperature, pressure, activity, and catalyst stability and lifetime, not solely conversion and selectivity. The result has been the development of OCM catalysts that operate at significantly lower temperature (several hundreds of degrees lower), practical operating pressures (5-10 atmospheres), high activities, and having standard lifetimes of years under said conditions.
They then run the ethylene through another catalyst to get fuels.
Ethylene to Liquids
Siluria has developed a second process, known as Ethylene to Liquids (ETL), to convert unpurified ethylene from the OCM process to hydrocarbon liquid fuels.
Siluria ETL Process
In the ETL process, the OCM ethylene effluent is oligomerized over a catalyst (different than the OCM catalyst) to selectively produce targeted products, such as gasoline, condensate, aromatics, heavy oil diluents or distillates including diesel or jet fuel. Oligomerization refers to the process of producing higher carbon number molecules from ethylene or other alkenes.
All in all interesting…
But somehow I doubt Aramco will be licencing it to folks all over north America to make gasoline at $1 / gallon. But maybe someone else will make a competitive process and force their hand…