New Natural Gas Process Could Increase Efficiency in Making Plastics
Posted August 10, 2021
We’ve previously noted some of the non-fuel uses of natural gas and oil, many of which were highlighted in a 50-state series from a few years ago. More recently, we posted on the ground-breaking role natural gas and oil play in developing carbon nanotubes, microscopic structures that can be used in any of a number of applications, from electronics to construction.
So, while people commonly think of natural gas and oil as fuels for transportation, generating electricity and heating homes, they are significant in crafting synthetic fabrics, detergents, asphalt, lubricants, some skin care products, and a host of other products. Without oil and gas, you’d find it more difficult to travel on a smooth road (asphalt), launder your dirty clothes, maintain your cars or even keep your skin clear.
Here’s another emerging technology – using a new natural gas technology to make plastics in a process that is more efficient than current processes and could help reduce greenhouse gases. A recent report in Science Daily details how researchers discovered the new process that could allow companies to produce just as much propylene while using a tenth of the natural gas currently needed.
Last year companies produced 8 million tons of propylene – feedstock for the world’s second-most widely used plastic. The new process could be less energy intensive, which could help lower emissions. Suljo Linic, senior author of the research paper published in Science:
“Industry has shifted over the years from petroleum feedstocks to shale gas. So there has been a push to find a way to efficiently produce propylene from propane, a component of shale gas. This catalyst achieves that objective.”
While this new technology is still in the research phase, it shows the utility of natural gas in manufacturing consumer products. This is in addition to its role as a cleaner fuel for generating electricity, which critically important to reducing carbon emissions from the power sector. It’s the kind of technological advance called for in API’s new Climate Action Framework:
Deploying low-carbon technologies can meaningfully reduce emissions while delivering essential energy. API members support innovative partnerships and technological development and deployment.
This includes carbon nanotubes and the plastics technology mentioned above, as well as carbon capture, utilization and storage technology – useful in a variety of industrial applications, not just natural gas and oil – and hydrogen fuel development. All have real potential to help our country continue to reduce CO2 emissions and help protect the environment.
- API’s Sarah Mitchell contributed to this post.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.
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