LSU Chemical Engineering Faculty Researching Means of Decreasing Greenhouse Gases

July 27, 2022

Green Cloud Logo of lowering CO2 emissionsBATON ROUGE, LA – Combustion of natural gas, chiefly comprised of methane, provides a major portion of our nation’s energy needs. Additionally, methane can be reacted with steam in a process known as methane steam reforming to produce carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2), which are then used to produce a wide range of fuels and chemicals. 

However, while methane is relatively “clean,” its combustion produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which constitutes the major component in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Researchers at LSU and Penn State University believe that by utilizing this CO2, as well as low concentrations of water, with methane to create CO and H2, they can decrease its overall GHG inventory.

LSU Chemical Engineering Associate Professor James Dorman and Professor Kerry Dooley, along with Penn State Chemical Engineering Professor Michael Janik, are currently working on this project through a collaborative, three-year, $512,316 National Science Foundation grant.

“Our end goal is a bi-reforming process, reacting methane with both CO2 and water to [create] syngas (synthesis gas) that would further react at high pressures to make intermediates for downstream chemical processes,” Dorman said. 

“Our challenge is developing stable catalysts that can operate under industrially relevant conditions,” added Dooley. 

As part of this study, they will be performing an economic analysis to select the most promising structure and material combination for the catalyst. Dorman added that creating syngas through their method would have tangible long-term benefits.

“Syngas is the building block of many consumer chemicals and plastics,” he said. “Right now, syngas is generated by gasification of coal or the reforming of natural gas with water. The use of greenhouse gases like CO2 can ‘generate chemicals from air’ and lower or possibly negate the environmental impacts [of industry]. This has long-term implications in the reduction of CO2 and helping to achieve a carbon neutral economy.”

An added component of the project is that starting in year two, LSU and Penn State will exchange undergraduate students, giving them the chance to learn the basics of the experiments/simulations and a complete picture of the project.

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