A new $750,000 gas-to-liquid lab has opened at the University of Texas at Arlington where researchers plan to convert natural gas to high-grade diesel and jet fuel in a process that one executive called a potential “world changer” for making fuels cheaper.
The lab was fully funded by Greenway Innovative Energy, a subsidiary of Fort Worth-based UMED Holdings, which also donated the equipment.
The university held an official ribbon cutting earlier this week for the Conrad Greer Lab at which years of energy innovation was on display that could help fuel the world in the future.
TECHNOLOGY PRODUCES LIQUID FUEL ON LARGER SCALE
“Basically, we synthesize the liquid oil from gas.”
Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair in UTA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Brian Dennis, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, perfected a conversion process and proprietary technology that produces liquid fuel on a larger scale that could see the lab move into the field to sites where natural gas lies untouched underground. Four graduate students are working with the professors in the lab.
Pawarat Bootpakdectam has worked with Greenway on sponsored research projects and has been a part of the Greer lab since the beginning, according to the Fort Worth Business Press.
“Basically, we synthesize the liquid oil from gas,” she told the Business Press. “We make the catalyst to convert gas to liquid and then right now many investors [are] interested [in making it] commercial by improving the catalyst quality and produce more the oil. [But] right now, we are trying to make good products and increase the quality.”
“We needed a proof of concept and UTA delivered that.”
Greenway CEO Raymond Wright called the university’s research solid and said that Greenway was primed to make the technology a reality.
“We needed a proof of concept and UTA delivered that,” Wright said in a release. “Then we needed to know whether it was movable, whether we could scale it down small enough to roll around.”
Greenway intends to use the technology to access “stranded gas fields,” or ones that have gas reserves too small to be economically viable and for which no current technology exists to extract the gas.
In fact, those fields often go untapped, Greenway said.
LAB NAMED IN HONOR OF FORMER GREENWAY CEO
The lab is named for F. Conrad Greer, former Greenway CEO, who died earlier this year.
Greer was a well-recognized petroleum engineer and chemist known for his work in evaluating oil and gas properties, reservoir engineering, and developing enhanced oil recovery methods, according to UTA.
He was passionate about innovation in the development of alternative fuels and came up with the idea for the process over the past 20 years.
“This has the potential to be a world changer. We have the potential for Texas to lead the world in the most economic way of producing diesel and jet fuel.”
Greenway Executive Vice President Pat Six said the process would be a “disruptive technology,” during his talk at the ribbon cutting.
“This has the potential to be a world changer,” Six said. “We have the potential for Texas to lead the world in the most economic way of producing diesel and jet fuel.”
While the process has great commercial potential, UTA President Vistasp Karbhari said the partnership with Greenway is a critical turning point for the university, Greenway, and the world.
“We will become a megacity in the next 10 years, and that means there is going to be even more demand on natural resources, and more demand to have cleaner fuels, more efficient fuels, and cheaper sources of energy,” Karbhari said.
“That’s what this project is all about — trying to take a plentiful natural resource, and convert it in a very efficient and clean way into something you and I will use every day. That is a tremendous impact, not just on this university, not just on the metroplex, but across our nation.”
Greenway officials said they anticipate deploying a field unit that converts natural gas to liquid within 24 months.
Updated June 29, 2017 – 9 p.m.