DOE Awards C1 Research Grant

Issue 6 and Volume 103.

The Consortium for Fossil Fuel Liquefaction Science, a five-university partnership, has received a $4.2 million research grant from the U.S. DOE for a research program to study innovative ways to provide cleaner alternative fuels and premium-quality chemicals for the vehicles and industries of the 21st century.

The research could point to new ways to use such carbon-containing materials as natural gas, coal, biomass, petroleum coke, and municipal solid wastes as the source of fuels that might one day begin replacing imported oil while providing environmental advantages, according to a DOE statement.

The consortium will be pursuing new directions in a research area called “C1 chemistry.” C1 chemistry is the conversion of single carbon-bearing molecules into valuable liquid and other products. For example, the process can be used to convert syngas made from coal or natural gas into oxygenated transportation fuels that could be used in a new generation of vehicles. C1 chemistry could also be used to produce high-purity hydrogen or premium chemicals from syngas or methanol.

Research has historically focused on a specific category of reactions called the Fischer-Tropsch process. DOE has a Fischer-Tropsch synthesis program under way in its coal- and natural gas-to-liquids research efforts, and one of the consortium`s tasks will be to study a Fischer-Tropsch process to generate oxygenated fuels using an iron-based catalyst.

The consortium`s main efforts, however, will be to carry out a nationally coordinated research program on innovative chemical processes that may not follow the traditional Fischer-Tropsch pathway.

DOE notes that new C1 chemistry could lead to increased use of fuel cells and to cleaner transportation fuels. It is hoped that research may reveal ways to use CO2 to convert natural gas into fuels and chemicals.

The DOE Office of Fossil Energy and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will jointly fund the research for at least the first year of the three-year project. Consortium members will contribute an additional $1.2 million, bringing the total to $5.4 million. Consortium members are the University of Kentucky, West Virginia University, the University of Utah, the University of Pittsburgh and Auburn University.