Friday, August 21, 2009

Efficient On-Site Conversion of Methane to Methanol

CH4 + H2SO4 + SO3 → CH3OSO3H + H2O + SO2 (a)

CH3OSO3H + H2O → CH3OH + H2SO4 (b)

SO2 + ½O2 → SO3 (c)

ΣCH4 + ½O2 → CH3OH (d)
Biomass to methane, via anaerobic digestion, is fairly easy. Now researchers at Max Planck Institute have devised a solid catalyst for efficient conversion of methane to methanol. This development opens the door to small-scale, local and regional biomass to methanol plants.

Methanol is one of the most ideal biofuels for fuel cell use -- better than hydrogen in many ways. It can also be a useful supplement / substitute for gasoline in automobiles, AND is an excellent feedstock for chemical synthesis of longer chain hydrocarbons.

Converting biomass to a denser form of energy, is one of the challenges facing the project to replace fossil fuels with biofuels. Local and regional conversion / densification plants will make the entire enterprise more feasible, and will bring some level of economic prosperity back to the outlands.

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