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Unlocking the code

World Coal,

For the last three decades, chemical companies worldwide have been working to develop a much-sought-after process to convert methane, which is derived from natural gas, into ethylene, the world’s largest-volume commodity chemical, with more than 137 million t used globally in 2013.

The US sits on an estimated 700 trillion ft3 of coalbed methane (CBM), while there is also an estimated 7500 trillion ft3 worldwide. There is therefore vast potential to leverage these natural gas reserves and develop these resources. This new methane-conversion technology can be applied to both shale gas and CBM - provided the methane is of a high-enough purity.

According to a new process economics report from IHS Chemical, which assesses the potential commercial viability and economics of new petrochemical technologies, San Francisco-based Siluria Technologies Inc. appears to have unlocked the code, developing a patented process for the production of polymer-grade ethylene via oxidative coupling of methane (OCM). This is particularly timely for producers seeking to further leverage an abundance of shale gas and CBM resources available in North America and other regions into essential petrochemicals.

In this report, the author explains that the simple, yet hitherto elusive chemical process route of converting methane to ethylene conversion may be achievable by developing Siluria Technologies’ catalyst and process technology. If countries with abundant, low-cost natural gas – and with unconventional gas programmes already in development – choose to implement this technology, they will have a competitive advantage over countries that do not. Ethylene producers, large petrochemical companies, as well as entities using ethylene as a feedstock (polyethylene, styrene, ethylene dichloride and ethylene oxide), would all potentially benefit from this new Siluria OCM process.

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Written by Don Bari, IHS Chemical, US.

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