Published: December 2010
Known for its versatility and clean burning nature, natural gas can be used as a fuel or a chemical feedstock. In the past the development of new natural gas conversion technologies suffered from the small price differential between products and natural gas. Lately the role of natural gas in meeting domestic energy and feedstock materials demand has attracted tremendous interest, mostly due to (1) its newfound abundance in the United States, (2) low current U.S. natural gas prices relative to crude oil, and (3) its cleaner and more efficient combustion compared to other fossil fuels. It is projected that natural gas conversion to petrochemicals and fuels will rise substantially in the next 20 years and advances in development of new sustainable routes for natural gas utilization will be strongly promoted by increasing efforts and expertise in all of the areas of knowledge involved.
Since 1995, significant progress has been made in the commercialization of natural gas conversion technologies for the production of chemicals and synthetic fuels. In this report, we update the state of the art in natural gas conversion technologies with a focus on synthesis gas production, production of methanol and dimethyl ether (DME), and methanol-to-olefins conversion. Recent literature concerning natural-gas-to-liquids via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, methane partial oxidation to methanol, methane dehydroaromatization to benzene and oxidative coupling of methane are also briefly discussed.
To present the integrated production economics using natural gas as a feedstock, this report highlights advances in commercial developments for natural gas conversion to commodity chemicals and combines the work into an integrated natural-gas-to-polypropylene process design concept starting with a world-scale natural gas based methanol plant, which supplies a methanol-to-propylene plant featuring Lurgi's Methanol-to-Propylene technology. The final production of polypropylene is based on LyondellBasell's Spherizone technology.