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Engineers in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have been selected to help lead a five-year, $20 million National Science Foundation engineering research center aimed at developing new mobile technologies for converting natural gas into transportation fuels near rural natural gas sites.

The ability to convert natural gas into fuels could help the United States secure its energy independence, lower the nation’s energy costs and potentially provide a lower carbon footprint to a future sustainable energy economy. The project’s leaders estimate that their technologies could also inject $20 billion per year into the U.S. economy through the creation of new businesses and the development of a next-generation shale workforce.

The new Center for Innovative and Strategic Alkane Resources (CISTAR) will develop innovative catalysts, separation processes and process systems that convert alkanes — hydrocarbons including methane, ethane and propane — into more valuable liquid fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuels. To better leverage the natural gas sector’s surplus in lighter hydrocarbon gases, CISTAR plans to build small, modular and mobile processing units for small well sites in rural areas.

Along with Joan Brennecke, the UT Austin team includes David Allen, Thomas Edgar, Benny Freeman and Mark Stadtherr of Texas ChE and Sheila Olmstead of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The researchers will focus on developing materials, technologies and processes for separating reactants and products, minimizing environmental impacts and testing integrated system analyses.

For the full story, Department to Co-Lead $20M NSF Center To Convert Natural Gas Into Transportation Fuels, please go to the department webpage.