(764b) Production of Ethylene and Methanol From Dry Natural Gas and Crude Oil: A Deep Dive Sustainability Assessment

Upadhyayula, V. K. K., Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE)
Masanet, E., Northwestern University
Graziano, D. J., Argonne National Laboratory
Riddle, M., Argonne National Laboratory

Chemical feedstocks (mainly Ethylene, Methanol and NH3) are conventionally produced from crude oil but deriving the same from natural gas is an option under active perusal by chemical and petrochemical industries today. Since natural gas is an abundantly available and a much cleaner source than crude oil, chemical feedstock production routes using natural gas are expected to be more sustainable than crude oil process path ways. Two major production routes are available for converting dry natural gas to chemical feedstocks. The first one is the indirect conversion route where syngas produced as an intermediate product gets converted to chemicals. The second one is direct conversion route where natural gas gets directly transformed into chemicals. Indirect conversion of natural gas to chemicals can be achieved in two ways: (a) optimization of syngas production through process intensification where advanced chemical engineering principles are applied to design a process pathway that is not only compact and safe but also reduces the energy and environmental footprint of syngas synthesis which is subsequently used to produce chemicals; (b) improving the efficiency of natural gas to syngas conversion process by employing advanced catalytic materials. On the other hand in direct conversion of chemicals from natural gas (no syngas intermediate step) is attained either by employing membrane technology or catalytic reactor systems. While natural gas to chemicals routes are hypothesized to be more sustainable than crude to chemicals pathways, these claims can be validated when life cycle (cradle to gate) impacts of producing chemicals from natural gas and crude can be compared. To accomplish this objective, a deep dive analysis is conducted and sustainability potential of selected Ethylene and Methanol production pathways of natural gas and crude oil are evaluated. The cradle to gate energy and environmental burden associated with respective production routes, process economics and material substitution effects are studied and the results will be discussed in the presentation.