Left to right: Angela J. Acocella of the Technology and Policy Program, Daniel Cohn of the MIT Energy Initiative, Leslie Bromberg of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, and Emmanuel Lim of mechanical engineering.

Photo: Stuart Darsh

Recovering natural gas at oil wells

Nancy W. Stauffer  |  MIT Energy Initiative

An MIT team (including Plasma Science and Fusion Center principal research engineer Leslie Bromberg and MITei research scientist Daniel Cohn) is developing a small-scale system that converts natural gas into easily transported liquid fuels — a design especially suited for use at oil drilling sites where escaping natural gas is now burned or vented. To keep the size and cost down, the researchers are performing a critical step of the conversion process inside a conventional, mass-produced engine. And to minimize cost, complexity, and maintenance needs — important for installations in remote areas — they are focusing on producing methanol, a simple chemical with rapidly expanding uses. Extensive modeling studies and engine experiments confirm the technical viability of the process and show that — in some situations — the cost of producing methanol could be competitive with costs at large conventional methanol plants. A pilot-scale demonstration of the system will begin soon.

Read complete article