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Efficient Conversion of Natural Gas

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR)
Rocket Engine Derived High Efficiency Turbomachinery for Electric Power Generation / Turbo-Pox for Ultra-Low Cost Gasoline
ARPA-E Award: 
Canoga Park, CA
Project Term: 
05/01/2013 to 03/15/2016
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Natural gas is an abundant domestic resource that is currently less expensive than gasoline and produces fewer harmful emissions than any other fossil fuel. However, there are fewer than 600 natural gas refueling stations across the U.S. today, compared to 120,000 gasoline stations; consequently, cost competitive gas-to-liquids technologies have the potential to significantly change the transportation fuel market. Therefore, most of natural gas consumption is for electricity--currently roughly 24% of U.S. electric power generation comes from natural gas. Natural gas use for electricity generation is projected to increase due to its lower cost and GHG emissions compared to coal or petroleum. As a result, there is an opportunity for disruptive technologies that increase the efficiency of electricity generation from natural gas-fueled turbines. If successful, this technology would assist with reducing both national energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) is developing two distinct--but related--technologies that could revolutionize how we convert natural gas. First, PWR will work with Pennsylvania State University to create a high-efficiency gas turbine which uses supercritical fluids to cool the turbine blades. Allowing gas turbines to operate at higher temperatures can drive significant improvements in performance, particularly when coupled with the recapture of waste heat. This advancement could reduce the cost of electricity by roughly 60% and resulting in significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Drawing upon lessons learned from this technology, PWR will then work with the Gas Technology Institute to build a system that partially oxidizes natural gas in the high-temperature, high-pressure combustor of a natural gas turbine, efficiently facilitating its conversion into a liquid fuel. This approach could simultaneously improve the efficiency of gas conversion into fuels and chemicals, and also generate high-quality waste heat in the process which could be used to generate electricity.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, PWR's work would increase the efficiency of natural gas conversion processes, allowing for lower-cost electricity production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas power generation sector.
Enabling the efficient and cost-effective use of natural gas for power generation would improve the stability of the electric grid and increase our national energy security by supporting abundant domestic energy resources.
The proposed design would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, which, if proven at scale, would result in a marked reduction in overall U.S. greenhouse gas emission levels.
PWR's technology could reduce the cost of electricity generation by more than half compared to coal, resulting in $25 billion in cost savings per year for consumers if widely deployed.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Dr. Kenneth Sprouse
Gas Technology Institute
Pennsylvania State University
Release Date: