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Page added on February 27, 2007

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A Practical Use for Waste Methane

About 100 billion cubic meters of natural gas are burned off or simply vented at remote oil rigs and refineries that are not connected by pipelines. The practice wastes a precious fuel and pumps methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Technologies for compressing or liquefying natural gas in order to transport it are expensive and only make sense at large oil fields. So, researchers have been looking for viable technologies to convert the natural gas found at small, isolated oil fields into compounds that are easier to transport and distribute.

A new breakthrough by chemists at the Munich University of Technology, in Germany, and Dow Chemical, in Midland, MI, could lead to a technology for turning methane, the main component of natural gas, into easily transportable and valuable chemicals. Because of its simplicity, the new chemistry could be employed at natural-gas reserves that are in remote locations with no infrastructure to transfer the gas to markets. About half of the world’s known natural-gas reserves of 170 trillion cubic meters are in such deposits, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Technology Review

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