Sundrop Fuels Inc. to adopt ExxonMobil technology of the 1970s
The process mixes biomass with hydrogen generated by burning natural gas to make a synthetic gas, which then will be converted into methanol.
The end product, Sundrop Fuels says, is zero-sulfur, ultra-low benzene gasoline that can be used directly or blended with petroleum-based gasoline. The company says it can be delivered through existing fuel distribution infrastructure.
The methane-to-gasoline technology was developed in the 1970s and was successfully commercialized for a large-scale natural gas-to-gasoline plant during the 1980s in New Zealand, the company said.
As a first point, "burning" natural gas does not generate hydrogen. As a second point, the New Zealand plant used technology from Mobil, not Exxon, which companies were separate entities in the 1970's and in the 1980's.
Mobil commercialized a "methane to gasoline" plant in New Zealand in the 1980's. From an article by Richard Crabtree in Chemical Reviews in 1995:
Mobil commercialized a methane to gasoline process in New Zealand in 1986. The process starts with a reforming step to give H2/CO, followed by catalytic conversion to methanol and then conversion to gasoline range hydrocarbons on a zeolite catalyst.
Crabtree also noted:
Clearly, the syngas route is technically viable; the only issue at present is the economics of these processes. This is largely determined by the crude oil price which is probably currently too low ($18/ barrel) to make any of the natural. gas-based processes economically viable in other than special situations.
Separately, from a paper by Bose, Stiegal and Srivastava :
A 14,500 barrel-per-day natural gas-to-gasoline plant started operating in New Zealand in 1985 and was on stream producing 87 octane unleaded gasoline until recently. In this process, natural gas was first converted to methanol via synthesis gas, followed by conversion of methanol to gasoline using a novel catalyst developed by Mobil in the 1970s. A portion of Mobil's development efforts was funded by the Fossil Energy Program of the USDOE.
A discussion of methane conversion appears in a paper by Gray, Tomlinson, and Shen. Note also a post New Zealand Converts Methane to Gasoline which mentions Exxon's 3847567 to inventor Ted Kallina, about making methane from coal.
A story in BusinessWeek described the technology being licensed by Sundrop:
Sundrop Fuels will use a multi-phase process to convert sustainable forest waste into clean, affordable bio-based “green gasoline” for use in today's combustion engines. A gasification process will convert the forest waste combined with hydrogen from clean-burning natural gas into a synthesis gas, which will then be converted into methanol. The MTG [methanol-to-gasoline ] synthesis process works by feeding the methanol into a fixed-bed reactor system, turning it into hydrocarbons and water. The end product is zero-sulfur, ultra-low benzene gasoline that can be used directly or blended with petroleum-based gasoline, both compatible with the nation's existing fuel distribution infrastructure.
The Sundrop Fuels installation represents the first commercial production of biofuels using the MTG process. The MTG technology was originally developed in the 1970s and was successfully commercialized for a large-scale natural gas to gasoline plant during the 1980s in New Zealand.
It is the methanol-to-gasoline process which is being licensed.