Hat tip to E. M. Smith (Chiefio) for finding this one. Siluria Technologies at http://siluria.com/Home have been working on the catalysts to change Methane into Ethylene and thus onwards to transport fuels, and have shown that they can produce gasoline or diesel fuel at around $1 per US gallon. Given the amount of natural gas of various types that has been opened for extraction and is planned, this looks to be another downward pressure on the cost of energy which should also be less-polluting that the mined oil.
Although this is not true green energy, it is greener than mining oil and could provide a use for the large amounts of gas that are currently flared off since the cost of transporting it to where it could be used is more than the gas will fetch on the market. It can use Methane from pretty well any source, and the purity does not need to be high for the process to work. The catalysts have a lifetime of years, too, which is several orders of magnitude longer than previously-used catalysts which have had a lifetime of hours or days.
Here’s a copy/paste from their website:
“Siluria’s demonstration plant is focused on proving Siluria Technologies’ novel OCM reaction process. The plant is located at a La Porte Texas facility owned and operated by Braskem. The demonstration plant is designed to produce approximately one ton of ethylene per day (350+ tons per year), which will further validate the OCM reaction process to convert methane to ethylene and will provide engineering data for design of a commercial scale system. The plant is pipeline fed and includes integration with the host site.
The demonstration plant is designed to prove out the commercialization of Siluria’s OCM technology from small-scale units (<250,000 tons per year of ethylene) through world scale plants (>1,000,000 tons per year of ethylene), as well as retrofits of existing world scale steam crackers. This involved detailed design to prove out multiple configurations of the technology including feedstock flexibility of running on different oxygen sources (air, enriched air, or pure oxygen) and pipeline natural gas with co-feeding ethane at different amounts. The demonstration plant is currently under construction and is expected to begin operation in the fourth quarter of 2014.”
There’s a slight question-mark over the involvement of Aramco here since it’s going to be against the Arab interests to have such a cheap source of liquid fuel available in the US and hopefully Europe as well, thus reducing the import of oil from OPEC further. I’d hope that this does not delay the introduction of this technology – natural gas is pretty-well Sulphur-free and thus burning it cleanly produces only CO2 which I do not consider a pollutant.