PCI Awarded DOE SBIR PH I Grant to Develop a Process for the Direct Conversion of Shale Gas to Commodity Chemicals

March 12, 2014

(North Haven, CT) Precision Combustion Inc. (PCI) has been awarded a DOE SBIR Phase I grant to prove its novel concept for a potentially-breakthrough process for converting natural gas directly to commodity chemicals. During Phase I, PCI will develop experimental validation of its new approach.

An efficient direct process, a long-sought goal of the refining industry, will enable the use of inexpensive domestic supplies of natural gas in place of expensive crude oil for production of America’s industrial chemicals. There has been much work by others to this goal because of the potential for large capital investment and energy savings. Despite this extensive investigation, a direct chemical pathway remains problematic due to reaction engineering constraints.

PCI’s new approach offers to overcome these constraints, boosting yields and conversion. The result could be substantial energy savings with significantly reduced process complexity and capital intensity, as well as a potential route to small scale gas-to-liquid technology. Success would enable a gas-to-fuels route for higher value utilization of the newly abundant supplies of relatively inexpensive domestic unconventional shale gas. The process is applicable to shale gas, conventional gas, and co-produced gas.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Weissman, the Principal investigator,

This field has been well-explored, but we appear to have a new approach not tried by others and seeming to hold potential for success. This DOE Phase I project gives us a chance to explore this direction and prove that the underlying concepts are valid.

Conventional conversion of methane into fuels is through multi-step processes that have enormous capital costs. Conventional processes include conversion to syn-gas via autothermal or steam reforming followed by either Fischer-Tropsch upgrading or methanol synthesis, then upgrading via the ExxonMobil methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process. These processes are complex, require a number of intermediate steps, and involve significant investments to be economically feasible. For example, the Sasol Oryx plant in Qatar, designed for production levels of 34,000 b/d, cost around $1.5 billion to build. PCI’s approach would substantially reduce these capital expenditures while reducing energy operating requirements.

Precision Combustion, Inc. is a clean energy technology company developing and manufacturing catalytic devices and systems for energy sector applications.  To learn more, visit precision-combustion.com.

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