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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R01213X/1
Title: New Manufacturing Processes for More Sustainable Commodity Chemicals
Principal Investigator: Taylor, Dr RA
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Centre for Process Innovation Limited Johnson Matthey
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 April 2018 Ends: 31 March 2023 Value (£): 877,146
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
16 Nov 2017 Manufacturing Fellowships 6 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The production of some of the simplest but most important chemicals manufactured by the chemical industry are made in complicated, indirect ways. Many chemicals derived from natural gas are synthesised through an intermediate known as "synthesis gas", a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The production of chemicals from synthesis gas is extremely well established and many processes have been operating for several decades. However, the production of synthesis gas requires high pressures (30 atm) and very high temperatures (800 C and above). The aggressive conditions used for the production of synthesis gas require expensive manufacturing plants and waste 25% of the natural gas feedstock to generate the high temperatures required for the reaction.

An alternative route to produce chemicals from natural gas would be to employ catalysts that operate at lower temperature and are able to selectively oxidise the hydrocarbons present in natural gas. The direct conversion of natural gas would enable more sustainable and efficient utilisation of this valuable natural resource. However, despite progress in selective oxidation catalysis research, no industrially practised direct natural gas conversion process is in operation due to the overall poor performance compared to synthesis gas based routes. This is commonly due to the fact that the catalysts tend to over oxidise the hydrocarbons, resulting in the formation of large quantities of carbon dioxide.

The development of direct natural gas conversion to chemicals would also provide an alternative to the flaring of associated natural gas (gas co-produced with oil) - it is estimated that 143 billion cubic metres of natural gas are flared per year, a quantity greater than the natural gas production of Kuwait.

The goal of this research is to develop new, selective oxidation catalysts and new manufacturing processes for the partial oxidation of methane and ethane (the principle components of natural gas) for more sustainable production of essential, commodity chemicals. The catalysts utilised in this research will be based on zeolites, which are derived from sustainable, earth abundant materials and are already widely used in the chemical industry as green catalysts. The programme of this fellowship will modify zeolites to form new materials that can selectively oxidise hydrocarbons to valuable chemical products. A key aspect of the research is understanding how the structure of the catalysts affects the outcome of reaction, as this will enable the development of structure - function relationships, enabling the development of improved catalysts. Deactivation processes and catalyst lifetime, key aspects of industrial catalyst development, will be explored to ensure industrial relevance.

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