Low temperature oxidation of alkanes to alcohols

Period of Performance: 01/01/2010 - 12/31/2010


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Exelus, Inc.
110 Dorsa Ave
Livingston, NJ 07039
Principal Investigator


This SBIR Phase I project addresses the long-standing need for catalytic methods to selectively oxidize light paraffins, especially methane, to commodity alcohols like methanol using air. The goal is to create a complete, sustainable, and cost-effective technology that converts abundant, low-quality natural gas into methanol using a practical, low-temperature route. The proposed technology represents a fundamental shift in the process chemistry and overall approach to synthesis of methanol. It combines fast reaction rates that cannot be achieved with enzymatic processes with mild processing to obtain energy efficiency far beyond the conventional approaches which use high temperature steam reforming of methane to produce synthesis gas. This project applies novel concepts in oxidation and heterogeneous catalysis to create a highly engineered, multifunctional catalyst that promotes the selective oxidation of methane to methanol using air as the oxidant. No expensive co-reactants are required. The same technology can be applied to convert other alkanes such as ethane, propane and butane into their respective alkenes or alcohols. Phase I research is directed towards proving out the concept on a bench scale system. The engineered catalyst will be synthesized and validated under reaction conditions that represent the viable commercial range for each variable. A preliminary economic analysis will be conducted to confirm the cost savings versus the conventional technology. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: If successful, this technology would allow the utilization of the many small and low quality gas fields scattered around the US and the world for methanol production. By drastically lowering the capital cost of a methanol plant, this technology will greatly increase the availability of methanol and open doors to converting this versatile material into a wide range of commodity products including transportation fuels and olefins like ethylene