Research NewsChemistry

Will New Catalyst Finally Tame Methane?

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Science  24 Apr 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5363, pp. 525
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5363.525

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Unless pipelines are already in place, transporting natural gas from remote wells can cost more than the gas is worth, so it is either flared off or pumped back into the ground. Now, on page 560, a team of researchers reports developing a new catalyst that efficiently converts methane, the primary component of natural gas, to a derivative of methanol, a liquid fuel that can easily be transported in trucks and tankers, much like petroleum. Although it is not yet known if the process will be economical to use on an industrial scale, the catalyst could open the door to making use of some of the world's vast untapped reserves of natural gas in remote areas.