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Promising new approach to the production of hydrocarbon fuels from methanol


The synthesis of hydrocarbons from methanol is a relatively new process for obtaining gasoline and important feedstock chemicals from carbon resources other than petroleum. The H2 and CO (syngas) used to produce methanol can be derived from renewable sources, and the production of methanol from syngas is a commercially proven technology. Charlotte Stewart, an IGERT trainee working for Dean Christopher B. Roberts at Auburn University, has developed a new approach for performing the catalytic conversion of methanol-to-hydrocarbons (MTH), by carrying out the reaction in a supercritical fluid (SCF) environment. Because of the superior heat transfer and extractive capabilities of SCFs relative to gases, SCF reaction media have been successfully employed in the past to enhance the performance of other exothermic reactions such as Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis. Initial results from the use of a supercritical isooctane reaction medium have shown improved MTH catalyst performance and increased hydrocarbon productivity with increasing time on stream, compared to MTH reaction performance in a traditional gas phase environment.