Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Methane plus CO2 Yields Gasoline: U of Saskatchewan

Everyone is looking for ways to convert an abundance of low-priced methane into something of higher value. The University of Saskatchewan is licensing a process to Carbon Sciences Inc. which combines CH4 and CO2 to produce syngas (CO + H2), which is catalytically transformed to liquid fuels such as gasoline.
For the past year, CSI has been developing its own catalyst for the efficient transformation of CO2 and methane gas into a synthesis gas, which is then be further catalytically processed into gasoline and other fuels. The overall reaction is:

CH4 + CO2 → (C5-10Hn) + H2O

The specific methane reforming reaction is:
CO2 + CH4 → 2CO + 2H2

The technology licensed from the UOS directly complements its own development efforts in this area, the company said.

The major challenges faced by previous industry attempts at developing a successful catalyst include coking (fouling the catalyst with carbon deposits) and continued long-time performance.

...CSI’s development was directed at solving these problems and its research team observed encouraging short-term laboratory results, the company said. However, the UOS technology developed over the past decade by Dr. Hui Wang, professor of Chemical Engineering, and colleagues has demonstrated high performance and reliability, the company noted.

The UOS catalyst achieved 92% conversion with no detectable sintering, no significant carbon deposition, and thus no catalyst deactivation. Dr. Wang’s research team has successfully tested the catalyst for 2,000 hours of continuous operation in a bench top reactor. _GCC

In other energy news, U. of Illinois, UC Berkeley, Seoul National University, and BP have combined with Lawrence Berkeley Lab to genetically engineer a strain of yeast capable of co-fermenting glucose and xylose simultaneously. This development will prove important, as cellulosic biomass conversion to alcohols moves into the marketplace.
The new yeast strain is at least 20% more efficient at converting xylose to ethanol than other strains, making it the best xylose-fermenting strain reported in any study, according to Jin.

The Energy Biosciences Institute, a BP-funded initiative, supported the research. A paper on their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

S. cerevisiae has been used for centuries in baking and brewing because it efficiently ferments sugars and in the process produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. The biofuel industry uses this yeast to convert plant sugars to bioethanol. While S. cerevisiae is very good at utilizing glucose, a building block of cellulose and the primary sugar in plants, it cannot use xylose, a secondary but significant component of the lignocellulose that makes up plant stems and leaves. Most yeast strains that are engineered to metabolize xylose do so very slowly. _GCC

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