North Carolina State Univ. is part of a project team that is researching and developing new catalyst technology to produce the commercially important chemicals ethylene and propylene from natural gas.

The project lead, Bio2Electric, LLC, dba EcoCatalytic Technologies, is collaborating with North Carolina State Univ., among other industry partners, to develop the new catalyst technologies.

NC State will head catalyst development and bench scale testing under Dr. Fanxing Li, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Key personnel include Dr. Luke Neal, a postdoctoral research scholar, and graduate research associates.

“Our work will focus on a novel redox catalyst that has shown promise to enhance yield of ethylene and propylene while reducing emissions,” said Dr. Fanxing Li.

Ethylene and propylene are major building blocks in the organic chemical industry, with more than 750 million tons per year produced globally and transformed into plastics such as PE, PP and PET—which are ultimately used in thousands of consumer products.

“The confluence of low cost natural gas in the U.S. and the need to reduce environmental emissions provides significant opportunity for innovation,” said EcoCatalytic Technologies CEO Dr. John Sofranko.

The current technologies for ethylene and propylene production are energy intensive and emit more than 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide for every ton of ethylene or propylene produced. The new technology is anticipated to reduce the CO2 footprint by more than 90% and eliminate the release of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur oxide (SOx) pollutants.

Bio2Electric, LLC, dba EcoCatalytic Technologies, received a three-year, $3.8 million award from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop a new catalyst technology for ethylene and propylene production from components of natural gas. NC State’s work will be funded by $1.29 million of the grant.

Source: North Carolina State Univ.