Single-Step Methane to Liquid Fuels

Default ARPA-E Project Image

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Term:
02/03/2014 - 06/30/2017

Technology Description:

The Bioinformatics and Metabolic Engineering Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by Prof. Greg Stephanopoulos will develop a comprehensive process to directly convert methane into a usable transportation fuel in a single step. MIT's unique technologies integrate methane activation with fuel synthesis, two distinct processes required to convert methane that are typically performed separately. Today, activating methane prior to converting it to useful fuel is a high-temperature, energy-intensive process. MIT's unique approach would use nitrate instead of oxygen to oxidize the methane, which could increase the energy efficiency of methane activation and ultimately convert it to fuel. Further, MIT will investigate the use of zeolite catalysts that have the potential to activate methane and convert it to methanol at very high efficiencies.

Potential Impact:

If successful, MIT’s technology will dramatically improve the efficiency of methane activation and synthesis, potentially transforming the landscape of natural gas utilization for production of liquid fuels.


An improved bioconversion process could create cost-competitive liquid fuels that would significantly reduce the demand for foreign sources of oil.


This technology would allow for utilization of small-scale natural gas resources and help reduce emissions associated with the production of petroleum substitutes.


Expanding U.S. natural gas resources via bioconversion to liquid fuels could contribute tens of billions of dollars to the nation's economy while reducing or stabilizing transport fuel prices.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Marc von Keitz
Project Contact:
Prof. Gregory Stephanopoulos
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Harvard University
Tufts University

Related Projects

Release Date: