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Plasma Catalyst Coupling for Improved Conversion of Methane to Liquids

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0018736
Agency Tracking Number: 237640
Amount: $150,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: 22c
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0001771
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2018
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2018-07-02
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2019-04-01
Small Business Information
421 Wakara Way, Suite 210
Salt Lake City, UT 84108-3549
United States
DUNS: 828133939
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Jim Steppan
 (801) 750-4928
Business Contact
 Balakrishnan Nair
Phone: (801) 897-1221
Research Institution
 Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
 Yevgeny Raitses
PO Box 451 100 Stellarator Road
Princeton, NJ 08540-0451
United States

 (609) 558-4496
 Nonprofit College or University

The discovery of large shale gas reserves in recent years has resulted in the reduction of natural gas price and a need to develop new applications for the available resource. Upgrading shale gas to liquid fuels which are more easily transportable and have greater economic value can result in significant benefits to the US. Coupled with this challenging problem the DOE has a goal of further developing new low temperature plasma technologies with improved energy efficiency. This project will develop a technology area that is of great interest to DOE due to it’s potential for energy savings while at the same time solving one of the most pressing problems in the US energy resource portfolio. HiFunda will partner with researchers at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) to develop a low- temperature, plasma-based method of upgrading shale gas to liquid fuels. This development effort will couple low-temperature plasma and novel catalyst materials to improve the selectivity and energy efficiency of methane conversion to higher-value synthetic liquids. Conventional methods for methane partial oxidation to methanol typically require high reaction temperatures (400–1000°C) and pressures (>10 atm), which limits commercial viability. Low-temperature, nonequilibrium plasma technology overcomes the disadvantage of high temperatures and pressures because the majority of the electrical energy goes into the production of energetic electrons which can break the C–H bonds of methane. Typically, plasma processes are usually less selective with more complex product distributions than catalytic processes, however this issue will be overcome by coupling the plasma with heterogeneous catalysts to improve the selectivity of the desired products. Over 40 billion cubic tons per day of shale gas is produced in the US each day, and the US has approximately 610 Terra cubic feet of shale natural gas resources. Despite its abundance, less than 1% of the natural gas is being used as vehicle fuel in the US. About 15% of this gas is flared due to the lack of infrastructure to bring this gas to market. Flaring in North Dakota alone produced about 4.5 million metric tons of CO2 in 2012, roughly the equivalent of adding 1 million new cars to U.S. highways. Clearly, developing technology that turns this wasted resource into value-added products will have huge benefits by reduction of dependence on foreign oil, creation of local energy jobs, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from flaring.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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