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Flaring natural gas is commonly practiced at oil drilling sites to prevent costly removal and overpressurization of equipment; however, this process releases about 28 million tons of carbon emissions per year, which is not environmentally sustainable when looking towards a carbon-neutral future. In an effort to combat this issue, a novel, non-oxidative, coke-resistant Platinum-MXene catalyst was developed by researchers at Iowa State in 2021. This catalyst is used in a coupling reaction to convert methane to ethane and ethylene at 98% selectivity and 6% conversion.
This report describes a facility designed around the Platinum-MXene catalyst, which converts one billion cubic feet per year of natural gas into gasoline and jet-fuel liquid oligomers. These oligomers would be sold at $0.50 per pound to oil refineries to undergo hydrotreating. However, due to the low conversion rate of the catalyst, a difficult and costly separation and nitrogen refrigeration is needed to recycle the unreacted methane. The ethane and ethylene are isolated and sent to the downstream process, specifically dehydrogenation and oligomerization reactors. Selling the fuel was not found to be profitable considering the costs of a platinum catalyst and utilities of an extensive nitrogen refrigeration cycle. This process yielded a negative 15.9% return on investment and negative $105 million net present value. Significant improvements to the catalyst to increase conversion would greatly increase the efficiency of the process and reduce the major contributors to the process costs. While this process is currently not economically feasible, this could change in the upcoming years when the government sets more regulations on greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.
Date Posted: 25 May 2023