Skip to comments.New startup believes it has a way to cheaply convert methane to ethylene
Posted on 10/04/2011 7:29:58 AM PDT by Red Badger
When people think of uses for petroleum, they generally think of oil and gasoline, but doing so means ignoring the production of ethylene, a compound used to make many of the products most people use every day, such as plastics. Unfortunately though, as the price of petroleum goes up, so too does the cost of producing ethylene and all the products that come from it. This is why chemical researchers have been searching for years for a way to produce ethylene via anther process. Now, startup company San Francisco based Siluria, believes it has found a pathway there using methane instead of petroleum, and has received some $20 million in investment capital from various groups that are confident that Siluria is on the right track.
Everyone knows that over the next few decades, petroleum prices are going to rise dramatically as reserves begin to dwindle. At the same time, new natural gas deposits seem to be popping up every day, so much so that its price continues to fall. What everyone may not know is that methane can be extracted from natural gas, and rather cheaply at that. This is why MIT professor Angela Belcher, a board member of Siluria, has been focusing her research on ways to use methane to make ethylene. Shes developed a virus-based template technology that can be used to guide growing nanowire catalysts comprised of inorganic crystals. Afterwards the template can be burned away, leaving just the inorganic surface. That, the folks at Siluria believe, will provide the perfect platform for discovering the perfect catalyst for replacing oil with methane when making ethylene.
Success for Siluria in this endeavor would mean success for everyone else as well, as it would mean lower prices for ethylene and the products that are made from it. It also appears that the new process would require less energy and water than current methods, meaning the resultant products would be greener.
One dark spot on the horizon however is the growing unease that has cropped up regarding some products made from ethylene, particularly those that wind up as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a clear plastic used to make, among other things, baby bottles. Some research has suggested that becomes of its impact on hormones, it might be causing health problems for people, such as cancers of the endocrine or reproductive systems.
Video at link........
Everyone knows that Man Made Global Warming is going to kill us all too.
Everyone knows that over the next few decades, petroleum prices are going to rise dramatically as reserves begin to dwindle.
When an argument starts out, “Everyone knows” I tend to get the feeling a poor supposition is about to be foisted on me.
I’d much prefer someone telling me they found a less expensive method or cleaner method to the same result.
Peak oil will lead to peak methane?.......
The old Soviet Union propagandists used ‘Everyone knows’ at the beginning of their media blurbs to make the ‘news’ that was to follow seem like ‘common knowledge’ and if YOU didn’t know it, then YOU were being told it..........
I was under the impression that most ethane is already sourced to natural gas.
Most natural gas fields are 70~90% methane. Typically, up to 20 percent on top of that will ethane, propane and butane. CO2, Nitrogen, Hydrogen Sulfides may exist in lower percentages.
Some ethane is produced in refineries. It is more of a byproduct from the distillation and cracking, rather than a target production.
Many of the large shale gas fields are resulting in greater ethane production. With the larger production values of ethane already coming on board, multiple chemical plants are already going forward here in the US. We have discussed some of these on Free Republic this year.
Ethane is more valuable than Methane. And if you can convert methane to ethane for less that the price differential, that is a good business model, providing the price difference remains greater than your cost, even after that technology is put in use.
But this vague articles reads more like a solution in search of a problem, and ignores much of what is already done today.
Its still amazing how the dominant enviro-group think requires any San Francisco based company to use “green” to justify its work.
I hope Siluria succeeds, but we all know that their real goal is to patent a process that uses abundant, cheap, fracked-natural gas that they can sell to the likes of Exxon, BP or Taiwan Plastics for big money.
Of course, that just doesn’t sound as nice at cocktail parties, does it?
The old Soviet Union propagandists used Everyone knows at the beginning of their media blurbs to make the news that was to follow seem like common knowledge and if YOU didnt know it, then YOU were being told it..........Yes, and we've always been at war with Eastasia.
Humm Northern California Company, Siluria not to be confused with Solyndra.
Ethane is different from ethylene. Ethylene has a double carbon bond and two less hydrogens.
But ethane is the feedstock to make ethylene.
I took that as the part of the process being replaced since the referenced a refinery and not a chemical plant
The advantage of using naptha over natural gas is you are not exposing yourself to wide swings in the price of natural gas. In the last 10 years we have had two bouts with natural gas shortages and resulting price spikes. Post Katrina price increases never went down until the economy collapsed. We get most of our oil from the world supply but our nat gas comes from the domestic supply.
Now, the nat gas supply is stable and abundant so using nat gas is preferable. But, Katrina's little sister could come thru the gulf next year
What they need to do next is figure out how to strap on cheap collection devices to cows and sheep in order to get an even bigger bang for the green buck.
It may also be used to produce ethenol in one step without involving corn, fermentation, or vast amounts of water. The process was developed by Shell Oil in the 1930's and should be bad news for Archer Daniels Midland since it kills their Government subsidy. Corn should be used for food (and maybe some 'sippin' whiskey) not crappy motor fuel.
We are already producing ethylene, this 'new' process seems to be redundant.
I wonder if coal can be used to make plastics?............
Isn't the gasoline naphtha is used for more valuable as it is than spending additional money for create ethylene, propylene?
I'm asking, I don't know.
Natural Gas is more stable pricing than the crude oil used to make naphtha.
And as far as you chart on price, that is actual price but that doesn't reflect what those who were in the know expected would happen on price.
Nobody expected oil/gasoline to do what it did. The world market stabilizes prices, but in this case, it didn't. But otoh, everybody did expect natural gas to rise because as more and more electricity was generated with nat gas, the US would have to begin importing, and nat gas prices would be higher. And those two price spikes in 2001 and 2005 were warning signals of that fact.
But as it turned, the shale gas changed all that.
I think you are right, but you have to spend more money converting it plyethylene. Naphtha goes straight into blending for gasoline. I wondered if any here had a feel for the conversion cost.
everybody did expect natural gas to rise because as more and more electricity was generated with nat gas, the US would have to begin importing, and nat gas prices would be higher.
Yes, we had many LNG import facilities being planned and built. The $30~40 billion Alaska NG pipeline began to look realistic.
the shale gas changed all that.
Those import LNG places are going to become export facilities within a decade.
The Alaskan pipeline will have to go to an export LNG facility to hope to survive. Many pushed for that in the first place. Others, like me, pointed out the economics of converting to LNG for transport took far more value out of the gas; Alaska would be better off with a pipeline that connected to dwindling supplies from Alberta to the US. But, as you said, the shale gas changed all that.