The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will help develop microbes that convert methane found in natural gas into liquid diesel fuel, a novel approach that if successful could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower dependence on foreign oil.
The amount of natural gas simply flared or vented from oil wells globally is enormous equal to one-third of the amount of petroleum used in the United States each year. And every molecule of methane vented to the atmosphere in that process has the global-warming capacity of 12 molecules of carbon dioxide.
A consortium of scientists says that if the wasted gas can be turned into a liquid, then it can be piped along with the petroleum to refineries where it can be turned into diesel suitable for trucks and cars, or even jet fuel for use in planes.
Their proposal to develop a microbe that eats the methane in the gas won a $4.8 million Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy (ARPA-E) award from DOE. NREL's award was announced as one of 66 OPEN 2012 projects, which focus on a wide array of technologies, including advanced fuels, advanced vehicle design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power, and energy storage.
First established in 2007, ARPA-E's mission is to advance high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E's awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy. These projects have the potential to radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and environmental well being. ARPA-E focuses on transformational energy projects that can be meaningfully advanced with a small investment over a defined period of time to quickly catalyze cutting-edge energy research. Since 2009, ARPA-E has funded about 285 projects for a total of approximately $770 million in awards.
|Contact: David Glickson|
DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory