Study Targets Methane Conversion

  • Printer Friendly Printer Friendly
  • Comments Comments (0)

In an effort to develop cleaner- burning fuels, British Petroleum has awarded UC Berkeley a $10 million grant to study methane conversion.

The 10-year grant will enable UC Berkeley faculty and students to develop processes of converting methane, a main component of natural gas, to useful chemicals and fuels. The California Institute of Technology received an identical grant.

The research at UC Berkeley will be headed by Alexis Bell, Enrique Iglesia and Arup Chakraborty, all chemical engineering professors. The three are experts in heterogeneous catalytic approaches for converting methane into liquid fuels.

"The research focuses on the discovery and development of catalysts for doing this kind of work and understanding the relationship between such catalysts and their performance," Bell said.

UC Berkeley was chosen to receive the grant because of the excellence of the faculty and their research in the area of heterogeneous catalysis, said Bell.

"The availability of natural gas is becoming greater than that of liquid petroleum," he said. "All the major petroleum companies are looking for technology that can be used in the future to make liquid fuel and heating materials from natural gas."

The new research may enable cleaner-burning fuels to replace petroleum in the future, said Jane Scheiber, assistant dean in the College of Chemistry.

"Because of the abundance of methane and the fact that it is not being maximumly used, the potential for useful products are great if they can solve the difficult technological problems of converting it into liquids," she said.

The college expects five graduate students and six postdoctoral fellows to participate in the research.

"One of the important features of this grant is the training the graduate students will receive," Scheiber said. "They will be able to get good training and to contribute to important research."

The university has agreed to the grant in principle but it has not yet been awarded to either of the schools. Research is expected to begin as soon as the university signs the agreement, Scheiber said.

Caltech's grant will fund the development of homogeneous catalytic approaches. Heterogeneous catalysts are solids and the reactants are typically gaseous and occasionally liquid, while homogeneous catalysts are salts dissolved in a liquid solvent, Bell explained.

While Caltech and UC Berkeley received separate grants and will mainly be working independently, the two schools will have periodic communication to share their research.

"By undertaking this progressive collaboration with Caltech and UC Berkeley - which have taken vastly different approaches to solving this difficult methane-conversion problem - we have formed a very innovative and substantial team," John Browne, chief executive of British Petroleum, said in a statement.

The London-based company aims to bridge the gap between academia and the private sector and prevent waste of natural recourses while promoting environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum, Browne said.

"From BP's perspective, partnering with leading educational and research institutions enables us to demonstrate responsible leadership while remaining on the cutting edge of scientific development through funding projects that will not only benefit the company but society as well, while offering opportunities that can result in a cleaner environment and a stronger economy," he said.


Comments (0) »

Comment Policy
The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regards to both the readers and writers of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. Click here to read the full comment policy.
White space
Left Arrow
Image Student regent resigns after sex crime allegations
Jesse Cheng officially announced his resignation from his positio...Read More»
Image Pet shop may occupy planned Goodwill
After failed negotiations with the landlord and resistance from the busines...Read More»
Image Campus graduate takes new first steps
UC Berkeley's graduation day this year was symbolic for graduate Austin Whi...Read More»
Image Regents rescind part of approval
The ongoing legal battle surrounding revisions to the building plans for th...Read More»
Image UC spared additional cuts in budget revision
While the University of California escaped further funding reductions M...Read More»
Image UC Board of Regents wary of unreliable state funds
SAN FRANCISCO - Following the release of Gov. Jerry Brown's revis...Read More»
Right Arrow

Job Postings

White Space