It is often that we hear of the latest super-method to produce cheap and clean fuel using cheap materials, but it is not too often that Reuters tells us about it after the technology has been just revealed in the journal Science. Now, this sounds big, and it definitely deserves some attention.
The news comes from the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, where a team of scientists have developed an easy, cheap and very clean method to turn natural gas into liquid fuel and chemicals. If applied, the technology has the potential to completely eliminate oil products and encourage economies to only stick to natural gas.
The reasons why the study is put into the spot light, of course besides being great scientifically, is that in the U.S. natural gas production is huge right now thanks to fracking. The country is currently on the top of the list of natural gas producers, bypassing even Russia. But what the U.S. is now lacking, is techniques that allow efficient use of the resource, especially when natural gas has the properties to be turned into virtually anything that can be produced from petroleum.
Current technologies that can convert natural gas into, let’s say, liquid fuel, are extremely expensive and inefficient. They not only require very high temperatures reaching up to 900 degrees Celsius, but they also use expensive metals such as platinum and gold, and produce huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the new method works at maximum temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius, uses cheap materials such as lead and thallium, and ultimately promises huge reductions in capital costs.
The inventors claim that although the process still requires further development and research before it could be sold, they would not need more than three years to perfect it. If so, we might well witness a complete transformation of the world’s economy, where the dependence on petroleum products is completely transformed into dependence on natural gas.
Image (c) Reuters