Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy
The projects that comprise ARPA-E's REMOTE program, short for "Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy," seek to enable highly efficient biological conversion of methane to liquid fuels for small-scale deployment. Specifically REMOTE focuses on improving the energy efficiency and carbon yield of biological routes from methane to a useable form for fuel synthesis while also examining high-productivity methane conversion processes and bioreactor technologies.
Natural gas can be found in abundance throughout the United States, and is often used for heating, cooking, and electrical power generation. The primary component in natural gas is methane, an energy-rich gas that is generally incompatible with our current transportation infrastructure. In order to be used as a liquid transportation fuel, methane must be converted from a gas to a liquid. No commercially-viable biological approaches are presently available that can convert methane to a liquid fuel through an energy-efficient and environmentally sound process. Although conversion can currently be done chemically, this requires costly and energy-intensive processes that are only feasible at large scales. As a result, small and remote sources of methane cannot be leveraged to create cost-effective transportation fuels. ARPA-E's REMOTE program will use microorganisms as "biocatalysts" to address the challenge of small-scale gas-to-liquid conversion. New biological conversion technologies offer the potential for conversion processes feasible at small scales so that small, remote sources of methane can be accessed. Furthermore, these processes would have a small carbon footprint as to provide a clear environmental advantage over traditional fuels.
Potential Impact Description:
REMOTE could create cost-competitive liquid fuels that would significantly reduce the demand for foreign sources of oil.
If successful, REMOTE technology would enable the low-cost production of liquid transportation fuel from abundant natural gas sources found in remote locations throughout the United States.
REMOTE would allow for utilization of small-scale natural gas resources and help reduce emissions associated with the production of petroleum substitutes.
Tapping into existing natural gas resources could contribute tens of billions of dollars to the nation's economy and help to reduce or stabilize gasoline prices.