Office of Commercialization  Cost-Effective Single-Step Process for the Catalytic Conversion of Methane to Methanol/Formaldehyde
Cost-Effective Single-Step Process for the Catalytic Conversion of Methane to Methanol/Formaldehyde

Cost-Effective Single-Step Process for the Catalytic Conversion of Methane to Methanol/Formaldehyde


Unmet Need: Currently there is no technology available in the market capable of producing Dimethyl Ether (DME) from methane in a single reactor.
DME is an attractive substitute for diesel due to its high cetane number, which is a measure of its ignitibility in compression ignition engines. In addition, DME’s quiet combustion and inability to form harmful particulate carbon matter make it suitable for high-efficiency diesel cycle engines.   The industrial-scale production of DME requires a network of pipelines to introduce CH4 into the process. In remote areas, where no gas grid is available, excess CH4 is wasted - vented or even flared. Oil and Gas (O&G) production is the most energy-intensive of all industrial processes, consuming about 20% of its output for its own process needs. Extensive research has been performed, not only to find ways to increase process efficiency while reducing pollution but also to reduce transportation costs of hauling massive amounts of diesel fuel to and from remote facilities.

The Technology:  On-site single-step conversion of the natural gas that is currently wasted on oil rigs/off-shore drilling facilities to synthesize DME.
At WSU our technology is directed to converting methane (CH4, the major constituent of natural gas) into an ultra-clean synthetic fuel (dimethyl ether: CH3-O-CH3, DME) via a single reactor. This technology will be capable of dramatically improving efficiency and reducing environmental costs for O&G producers. The research team at WSU is pursuing a unique approach: to use the natural gas that is being flared to help power rig processes. This is a compelling route to eliminate harmful and wasteful flaring while achieving self-sustainability.

•    Our approach reduces the consumption of diesel at, and transport to, off-shore drilling sites
•    Subsequent reduction in fuel expenses due to transportation cost efficiencies
•    Significant health, economic, and environmental benefits by reducing flared natural gas on oil rigs

  • flaring essentially wastes the earnings potential of the natural gas in order to relieve pressure on the drilling site.
  • CO2 is a better greenhouse gas than the products of diesel (and accompanying impurities).
  • DME is a much cleaner fuel than diesel.

Our technology is ideally suited for Exploration & Production (E&P) companies that rent the drilling infrastructure from what are known as O&G field service providers. These providers currently do not offer a technology to reduce fuel consumption that may lead to significant savings to E&P companies. Hence, the O&G field service providers that acquire our technology will have an advantage over their competitors.

Intellectual Property:
Patent Pending - US Utility Patent Application Filed and Notice of Allowance received.  

Patent Information: