The future of the natural gas industry is set to receive a massive boost with multi-award winning innovators Dr Kevin Li and Professor Eric May receiving near $1 million to progress their gas separation technology.
Awarded through the Federal Government’s Global Innovation Linkages programme, the funding will enable them to build on the new technology and move their project closer to commercialisation.
Chevron Chair in Gas Processing Professor Eric May said the research will improve their ability to develop unconventional and low grade gas reserves with high levels of nitrogen, common in Australia, China and around the world.
“A challenge Australia faces is helping to meet global energy demands by mid-century, when the world’s population is predicted to grow by 40% to 9.1 billion.
“Gas separation technologies are essential to converting raw gas into a safe and useful product that can provide or even help store energy. In particular, removing the nitrogen impurity is important for the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG),” Professor May said.
Stripping unwanted nitrogen means better uses can be made of Australia’s natural resources, and Professor May says it also lowers the amount of energy required to produce LNG and reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of this important base-load transition fuel.
“Our latest technologies have direct application to the development of unconventional gas sources such as coal seam gas, shale gas and landfill gas. A difficulty in the development of these unconventional gas streams can be the high level of impurities such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
“The separation of methane and nitrogen is challenging due to their similar physical and chemical properties. In LNG production the cooling of nitrogen prior to its separation from methane is a parasitic energy load.
“This project will further develop and deploy new and improved materials such as zeolites and Transition Metal Complexes to remove nitrogen from methane,” Professor May said.
By collaborating with Australian and local Perth company Oilfield Production Technologies and Chinese company DKT Energy Technologies, the project met the criteria for the Linkage funding.
“Our work at the ARC Centre for LNG Futures has established that this new gas separation technology can work in the laboratory and could be widely applied across the industry, which was also important criteria for the funding.
“We look forward to the possibility of commercialising our research and seeing it applied to real world challenges in natural gas and LNG production across the world,” Professor May said.
This research was supported by the Australian Research Council through Dr Li’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award and the Industrial Transformation Training Centre program.