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This methane-to-methanol process operates at low temperatures

By Gerald Ondrey |

A process that continuously produces methanol from methane is being developed by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI; Des Plaines, Ill.; www.gastechnology.org), with support from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s (Washington, D.C.) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The process operates at about 80°C, and produces methanol and hydrogen with 100% carbon efficiency, says Chinbay Fan, GTI’s R&D director. Conventional routes to methanol involve steam reforming of methane into synthesis gas, followed by high-pressure methanol synthesis at pressures of 50–100 bars and temperatures of 200–300°C over a Cu/ZnO/alumina catalyst. Efficiencies of only 50–65% are achieved, depending on the waste-heat recovery, says Fan. In contrast, GTI’s process uses an electrochemically charged anode catalyst similar to the anode of a nickel-metal-hydride, or nickel-cadmium battery, explains Fan. The technique continuously generates NiO+OH– catalyst at the anode of an electrochemical cell (diagram). Methane gas flows through the cell and is efficiently oxidized to methanol with high selectivity. The catalyst is continuously regenerated at the anode (by the electrochemical charging process), and water…
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