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Small-Scale Reactors for Natural Gas Conversion

University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder)
Low Cost Microtubular ALD-based Reactor System for Catalytic Reforming
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,527,500
Location: 
Boulder, CO
Project Term: 
05/01/2013 to 06/29/2017
Project Status: 
CANCELLED
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
The U.S. is in urgent need of alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuel. 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: 
The University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder) is using nanotechnology to improve the structure of natural gas-to-liquids catalysts. The greatest difficulty in industrial-scale catalyst activity is temperature control, which can only be solved by improving reactor design. CU-Boulder's newly structured catalyst creates a small-scale reactor for converting natural gas to liquid fuels that can operate at moderate temperatures. Additionally, CU-Boulder's small-scale reactors could be located near remote, isolated sources of natural gas, further enabling their use as domestic fuel sources.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, CU-Boulder's small-scale reactors would improve the thermal stability of natural gas conversion systems, resulting in cost and production efficiencies over today's best systems.
Security: 
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.
Environment: 
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.
Economy: 
Widespread use of domestic natural gas as transportation fuel could decrease our foreign oil imports, allowing more of our dollars to stay at home.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Prof. Alan Weimer
Release Date: 
11/28/2012