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Electrogenerative Gas-to-Liquid Reactor

ARPA-E Award: 
Monmouth Junction, NJ
Project Term: 
02/01/2013 to 12/31/2018
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

The U.S. is in urgent need of alternatives to petroleum-based transportation. With gas prices routinely above $4 per gallon, and numerous known petroleum reserves held in geopolitically unstable regions, there is a need for investment in cost-effective alternative fuel sources, such as natural gas. These cost efficiencies can be difficult to achieve, as many of our natural gas reserves are in geographically isolated areas. Developing small-scale gas-to-liquid reactors that can be deployed in remote locations and produce cost-effective natural gas would go a long way toward replacing gasoline as our base transport fuel.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Bio2Electric is developing a small-scale reactor that converts natural gas into a feedstock for industrial chemicals or liquid fuels. Conventional, large-scale gas-to-liquid reactors are expensive and not easily scaled down. Bio2Electric's reactor relies on a chemical conversion and fuel cell technology resulting in fuel cells that create a valuable feedstock, as well as electricity. In addition, the reactor relies on innovations in material science by combining materials that have not been used together before, thereby altering the desired output of the fuel cell. The reactors can be efficiently built as modular units, therefore reducing the manufacturing costs of the reactor. Bio2Electric's small-scale reactor could be deployed in remote locations to provide electricity in addition to liquid fuel, increasing the utility of geographically isolated gas reserves.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Bio2Electric's small-scale, gas-to-liquid reactor would be 10-15% more efficient than today's best reactors at 50% of the cost of other modular gas-to-liquid systems.


Increasing the utility of geographically isolated natural gas reserves would decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil--the transportation sector is the dominant source of this dependence.


Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are burned off, or "flared," during petroleum refinery. Reactors that capture and convert natural gas into fuel would result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the refinery industry.


Widespread use of natural gas as transportation fuel would decrease our foreign oil imports, allowing us to keep more dollars at home.

Innovation Update: 
(As of March 2017) 
EcoCatalytic (formerly Bio2Electric, LLC) and partner KBR’s technoeconomic analysis indicates that their innovative ethylene production process could significantly reduce energy requirements and related emissions. The team plans to complete construction of a laboratory-scale reactor by June 2017. Upon validating its models in the reactor, the team will work with its commercialization partners to validate its results at a larger pilot scale (100kW to 2MW). To do so, EcoCatalytic is looking for opportunities to retrofit existing reactors with an initial capital investment of $5 million. Successful implementation could transform production in a $150 billion global ethylene market (as of 2010). 
EcoCatalytic engineered a process to convert ethane to ethylene with reduced energy and emissions by way of chemical looping oxidation. It developed an oxygen transfer agent that charges in air and reacts with ethane to produce 70% yield of useful products, of which ethylene is the primary output. The team also adapted a metal-oxide catalyst to provide the properties needed to carry out the reaction in a fluidized bed configuration. In addition, EcoCatalytic designed a reactor for the process and, after extensive simulations, is now constructing a chemical looping reactor to test its materials and reactor design. The company’s models indicate that its chemical looping oxidative dehydrogenation process will reduce production energy, carbon dioxide emissions, and nitrogen oxide emissions each by 80%.
For a detailed assessment of the EcoCatalytic project and impact, please click here.

ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Joseph King
Project Contact: 
Dr. John Sofranko
Release Date: