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What chemicals can be produced from natural gas?


The development of a natural gas-based chemical industry chain is a reflection of China’s “unbundling” of its natural gas chemical policy on the one hand, and the development of a low-carbon chemical industry chain on the other. The main component of natural gas is methane, which is more active chemically and has an inherent cost advantage as an extension of the chemical feedstock chain.

And what chemicals can be produced from natural gas? For this purpose we investigated the current directions of chemical industry chain extension using natural gas as a raw material and found several promising industry chain structures.

First, direct conversion of natural gas to methanol and formaldehyde natural gas to methanol is also an important way of methanol production in China at present, which is an important representative product in C1 chemistry. Natural gas preparation of methanol currently requires a transition through synthesis gas, but the industry has never stopped its research on the technology of direct conversion of natural gas to methanol and has made certain achievements.

If natural gas can be directly converted to methanol, this will be an essential improvement in the cost competitiveness of methanol production. Using homogeneous oxidation as an example, methanol production in this way can achieve a methane conversion of 4% to 15%, while the selectivity of methanol is 60% to 90%.

In addition, research on low-pressure and low-temperature conversion of methane to methanol is being carried out with corresponding success. It refers to the synthesis of organic hydrogen peroxide, which can then be activated with the help of metal catalysts, allowing the conversion of methane to methanol. This natural gas to methanol method is more economical and has less emission of three wastes and less energy emission in the conversion process. Methanol is a basic raw material product in China’s chemical industry chain, and using methanol as an extension of the chemical industry chain is also an important direction for low-carbon chemical production. Therefore, in the future, the market demand for methanol in China’s chemical industry will maintain a high boom development, and methanol will still have a high consumption demand in the future.

Second, natural gas oxidation coupling to ethylene is a new direction for future development About methane oxidation coupling to ethylene, there is a detailed analysis in the previous article, “Methane to ethylene (OCM) will set off an olefin industrial revolution? and will not explain too much here.

Thirdly, there is still a long way to go for natural gas to aromatics. As we can see, coal to aromatics has been shouted for many years, but there is still no industrialized plant, mainly because the technology has not yet been completely broken through. This is mainly because the technology has not been completely broken through. If coal-to-aromatics downstream takes the route of oil blending, its economy is not good and does not meet the development trend, which also becomes the main problem that restricts coal-to-aromatics. Natural gas to aromatics is the process of producing aromatics by aromatization reaction with methane as raw material through oxygen-free catalysis, and the main products are basic aromatics products. Natural gas to aromatics includes both anaerobic and aerobic catalysis. Due to the low selectivity of aerobic catalysis and the low conversion rate of methane, it is not the main technical research direction of natural gas to aromatics at present. In this aspect, China’s technology level has reached the international advanced level. With the trend of aromatics supply slowing down in China, aromatics supplementation is expected to become an important production direction for the chemical industry in the future, driving the rapid development of the natural gas to methanol industry.

Fourth, natural gas-fired ammonia is more competitive We see that natural gas-fired ammonia is a more economical production method than traditional coal-based chemicals. The use of natural gas as a raw material for ammonia production not only consumes less energy, but also has less upfront investment and more mature production technology, so natural gas ammonia has a wide range of development prospects. In the future, the use of ammonia energy will break the restrictions and limitations of fertilizer use and become the cleanest type of new energy in the future, used in large ships, aviation engines and other fields. With the progress of technology, ammonia energy, as a clean energy source, is expected to gradually replace ship fuel and become an important type of energy for large ships, which will also drive the rapid development of ammonia energy supply.

Fifth, natural gas Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of liquid fuels, more low-carbon attributes According to Pinto learned that in the next 10 years, the market for refined oil products will still be an important energy supplement, although the consumption of refined oil products shows a trend of reduction, but refined oil products will still occupy the largest market share. Therefore, how to produce relevant oil products by low carbon way is also an important consideration in the current chemical production research. Natural gas to liquid fuels, the art mainly includes the production of syngas, synthetic Fischer-Tropsch and synthetic oil processing three steps, of which, the production of syngas and synthetic Fischer-Tropsch is the most critical, and synthetic Fischer-Tropsch is the most demanding technology. It is understood that, for example, Syntroleum’s pilot GTL process uses self-heating reforming to produce syngas, and the new horizontal fixed bed for F-T synthesis, which is the most advanced production method at present. However, natural gas for liquid fuels may have certain cost constraints in China as well as include higher upfront investment, resulting in higher payback period, which is also the main focus of current research. Therefore, it is expected that natural gas for liquid fuels still has a long way to go within China.

Sixth, natural gas to do dimethyl ether, carbon disulfide, hydrogen, synthesis gas, acetylene and other applications, also has a certain market development space, we believe that the direct synthesis of dimethyl ether through natural gas, the intermediate reduction of methanol step, in the cost and is expected to reduce about 40%, with sufficient market competitiveness. In addition, the application of carbon disulfide produced by previous desulfurization in natural gas, downstream can prepare a variety of fine chemicals and pharmaceutical intermediates, with a high rate of refinement and feasibility. Hydrogen is a necessary product for the development of oil refining and energy industry, and also the future development direction of new energy field. The application of natural gas to hydrogen has various advantages, such as low cost advantage and low carbon advantage, so natural gas to hydrogen will become the main development direction of natural gas chemical industry. The direct production of syngas from natural gas can be extended in many directions and may become an important branch of the industry chain in China’s chemical industry in the future. In addition, natural gas acetylene and then BDO production, downstream can be extended to biodegradable plastics, engineering plastics and new energy fields, can be extended in the direction of poisoning, will also become the future industry highly concerned about the direction. Finally, Pingtou would like to say that in the first few years, natural gas is mainly used to protect civilians, and with the growth of natural gas supply, the future of natural gas-based chemical will appear one after another and the scale of rapid growth, the extension of the natural gas chemical industry chain is expected to become the most powerful competitor of petrochemical and coal chemical.

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