BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTION OF METHANOL FROM METHANE

Period of Performance: 01/01/1989 - 12/31/1989

$495K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Engineering Resources, Inc.
P.o. Box 3682, Biomass, Research Center Hwy112
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Principal Investigator
Firm POC

Abstract

SIMPLE AND EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGY FOR THE CONVERSION OF METHANE INTO METHANOL WOULD ALLOW UTILIZATION OF REMOTE OR DILUTE NATURAL GAS, ENHANCE COAL CONVERSION PROCESSES, AND REDUCE THE COST OF A NUMBER OF INDUSTRIAL PROCESSES. SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENTS IN CATALYTIC CONVERSION PROCESSES ARE NOT LIKELY, AND NOVEL APPROACHES WILL BE REQUIRED TO ADVANCE THIS TECHNOLOGY. CERTAIN MICROORGANISMS, CALLED METHANOTROPHS, CONVERT METHANE INTO METHANOL. THESE UNUSUAL BACTERIA USUALLY METABOLIZE METHANE COMPLETELY TO CO(2), WITH METHANOL AS AN INTRACELLULAR INTERMEDIATE. THEREFORE, METHANOL PRODUCTION REQUIRES MANIPULATION OF THE ORDINARY ENZYMATIC REACTIONS, BY REGULATION OF THE ELECTRON TRANSPORT AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS, IN ORDER TO FAVOR THE METHANE MONOOXYGENASE PATHWAY. TWO ISOLATES HAVE BEEN FOUND TO PRODUCE LOW CONCENTRATIONS OF METHANOL. THIS RESEARCH PROJECT WILL FOCUS ON FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THESE CULTURES TO DEFINE THE FEASIBILITY OF BIOLOGICAL METHANOL PRODUCTION. CONDITIONS TO MAXIMIZE METHANOL YIELD, PRODUCTION RATES, AND CONCENTRATIONS WILL BE EXAMINED. METHANOL TOLERANCE WILL BE DEFINED, AND METHODS TO INCREASE TOLERANCE WILL BE STUDIED. FEASIBILITY OF THIS TECHNOLOGY WILL BE DEMONSTRATED IN CONTINUOUS REACTOR EXPERIMENTS AND THROUGH A PRELIMINARY PROCESS DESIGN AND ECONOMIC EVALUATION.