Global Warming Gas transformation to Valuable Chemicals

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Day to day increment in anthropogenic activities and urbanization is leading to huge waste generation. Proper waste management practices are essential to eliminate the further environmental degradation and transit to a sustainable society. Carbon emissions from green house gasses (GHG) are considered as a resource for value addition. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that drives warming at a much faster rate in the short term. Releasing of 1 kg of methane (CH4) into the atmosphere is about equivalent to release of 25 kg of CO2. The major source of CH4 into the environment is from the natural decomposition of plant and animal matter in oxygen depleted conditions. The powerful greenhouse gas methane could be efficiently converted into valuable products. If carbon is the problem, carbon has to be the solution for mankind.

The recent study published by Batamack and co-workers reported a streamlined chemical process for transforming the methane (CH4) into light olefins or higher hydrocarbons. This process is an one-pot halogenation process, directly transforms the methane to methyl halide or higher hydrocarbons at ambient pressure and moderate temperatures (345-365 °C) using chlorine or bromine as oxidant H-SAPO-34 as a catalyst. This process is a single step simple approach and has significant potential for feasible application in natural gas refining to gasoline and materials under moderate operational conditions. The chemicals like light olefins (ethene and propene) or higher hydrocarbons produced from the methane are majorly used in plastics manufacture, agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals industries. Currently, these chemicals are typically produced from petroleum oil and shale liquid cracking. Additionally, the current light olefins and higher hydrocarbons process consumer require high energy inputs when compared to single step methane process.

Anaerobic digestion is the well known biological process for biomethane production using organic waste as a resource. Integration of biological process with chemical catalysis facilitates the sustainability to the existing facilities and also promotes the bio-manufacturing in the biorefinery framework. Methane has long held unrealized feedstock and it has high potential for organic chemical producers as it typically traded low cost product. Therefore, mission towards the sustainable sources of energy is in progress towards the development of industrial economies and consumer societies. In the coming future, this integrated approach would endorse significant operational cost savings with further improvements in the sustainable conversion of methane to hydrocarbons along with addressing waste remediation constrains.

Author: A.Naresh Kumar, Senior Research Fellow, Bioengineering and Environmental Sciences Lab, CEEFF, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical .

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Batamack.P.T.D., Mathew.T., Surya Prakash.G.K. 2017. One-Pot Conversion of Methane to Light Olefins or Higher Hydrocarbons through H-SAPO-34-Catalyzed in Situ Halogenation. J. Am. Chem. Soc.139 (49) 18078-18083. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b10725

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