Purdue chemical engineering student Zige Huang, left, and graduate student Michael Cordon perform research related to work that will be supported by the new Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources. The center aims to develop new technologies to produce fuels from U.S. shale-gas deposits. (Photo: Purdue University/John Underwood)
The research is being funded by the National Science Foundation, which will provide the center with $19.75 million over the next five years.
"We have in our country enough fuel in shale reserves to power this country for 100 years," said Fabio Ribeiro, a Purdue chemical engineering professor who is leading the center. "But this energy is in a form — a large fraction of it is in a form — that we cannot use because it's a gas" instead of a liquid.
The research team's approach to this problem is to convert light hydrocarbons from shale gas into chemicals and transportation fuels using a network of portable, modular processing plants. Essentially, the process would turn gas from the shale into liquid, which could be used as a fuel.
This process will use fewer carbon emissions and will boost the U.S. economy, Ribeiro said.