Apr

28

Chemists and chemical engineers among us will remember the old Beilstein Handbook of Organic Chemistry — a relic of the pre-internet age that sits humbly on every self-respecting geek's bookshelf next to the CRC Handbook of Standard Math Tables. With gasoline prices approaching record highs (record=363 on 7/11/08; last=330), but natural gas stuck in the basement (7/11/08 price=13.60 ; last=4.55), it's a good time to revisit the conversion of natural gas into hydrocarbon liquids (including gasoline and jet fuel).

The "established" technique for this conversion is the Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis   "popularized" by the Nazis during WWII. However, chemistry has advanced a bit since then — and a quick google reveals that there are several companies with natgas-to-gasoline conversion patents. This story titled "Natural Gas to Gasoline"   appeared on August 25, 2008 — an inauspicious moment in the history of finance, venture capital, and energy prices. With financial conditions rather different today (and every attempt at rallying Natgas failing,) it's probably a good moment to take a fresh look at these ventures.

South Africa-based Sasol is the most obvious company that deserves a closer look.

Other companies mentioned: GeoGas Development Corp, Synfuels International

Other suggestions would be welcome — including the possibility that the very appearance of this post is a great indicator of a top in the gasoline market!


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2 Comments so far

  1. duncan on April 29, 2011 1:54 pm

    In Carribean countries they convert gasoline based vehicles to primarily propane driven, with a gasoline back up. It cost about $1000 for the conversion kit and miles per gallon is about the same but the cost for propane is 80 pesos per gallon vs 200 for gasoline. Propane stations are ubiquitous.

  2. John Wilkins on May 24, 2011 2:13 pm

    I guess I don’t understand the economic. Why do you need to turn natural gas into gasoline when you can run the truck or car directly on natural gas or propane? I am a chemical engineer and in 1969 I converted my 1968 Pontiac GTO to run on propane or gasoline. I put a 40 gallon propane tank in my trunk and I simply backed up to our home’s 500 gallon propane tank and filled up. I put solenoids in the gasoline and the propane lines with a switch inside on the dash. I had to adjust the fuel ratios with each one so I had an air cleaner that would do that by pulling or pushing a wire inside the car.I could change fuels without ever stopping the car. The only issue is that propane or natural gas is cleaner so there is less dirty carbon to lubricate the valves. I’m not sure how you do it with fuel injection but I know there are companies that have systems to burn it.

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