BYU chemist makes breakthrough discovery on natural gas

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  • Johnny Moser Thayne, WY
    March 18, 2014 12:12 a.m.

    The best and most effective baseload electrical production facilities are nuclear. Nuclear, the new, old, green energy solution.

    Great that we can convert with heavy metals, would like to see some dumb-man's science explanation of how that actually happens and whether it creates a heavy metal hazard like our leaded gasoline did some many decades ago.

    Not really a solution if we are just trading one problem for another, particularly when the hazard concerns known problems.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    March 14, 2014 3:01 p.m. would be really helpful if the right could see both sides of an issue and view it realistically instead of just believing and regurgitating the false propaganda the conservative radio media pumps out on a regular basis.

  • dan76 san antonio, TX
    March 14, 2014 2:00 p.m.

    Alcohol as a fuel contains less energy than gasoline. Therefore whenever I refuel with ethanol enhanced gasoline, fuel mileage drops by nearly 10%. Additionally most vehicles on the road today in the US cannot operate without fuel system damage on ethanol blends exceeding 10-15% .

    On the other hand, vehicles sold in Brazil operate quite well on 100% alcohol as government regs require alcohol compatibility.

  • Big 'D' San Mateo, CA
    March 14, 2014 11:33 a.m.

    @ Bill McGee,

    Are you planning on bathing or swimming in the 350ºF vats where these chemical reactions take place? Toxic exposure could be a problem there, but I think the heat would be a bigger health hazard. Otherwise, I doubt you would have to worry about significant exposure to thallium or lead in the finished product. Government regulations to ensure our safety are not exactly in short supply.

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    March 14, 2014 10:54 a.m.

    @The Rock
    "In 2008 a 10% increase in production caused gasoline to drop from $4.40 a gallon all the way down to $1.85 in my town."

    That wasn't the cause, and if it were it wouldn't happen again because no free market oil company would ever increase production slightly in exchange for dealing massive damage to what they could get paid for it.

  • sjames AMERICAN FORK, UT
    March 14, 2014 8:20 a.m.


    While electric may be "sustainable" and appear to help the environment, electric cars actually damage the environment more than gas cars because of their manufacturing process. We burn more carbon fuels producing these cheap cars than we could ever save by driving them.
    Eventually, we will get to a place where electric is efficient enough, perhaps. But most technology developments happen organically and natural gas a solid alternative to being enslaved to hostile countries where we buy our oil.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    March 14, 2014 3:52 a.m.

    All the oil companies have to do to kill this process is drop crude oil prices below $50 a barrel. That will crush fracking and CNG production. Alcohol has limited attributes in replacing oil and there are still trillions of dollars research still needed to make it a competitive alternative to oil and carbon fuels. Alcohol has limited commercial use and make-up removal is about its only function. If CNG alcohol was useable in vehicles we wouldn't be using consumer grade food fermented whiskey in gasoline. Using food resources is very stupid waste of human resources.

    We can liquify a lot of gases like oxygen, nitrogen, and CNG but it still has limited use and is a very expensive process no matter how its done. And it cost 100 times more to process than it is to refine oil for its thousands of industrial and commercial uses in a refinery that can't replace crude oil dependence. Gasoline is a waste product of oil refining while alternatives have only one source and one purpose, that is the flaw in being oil independent and it will never happen. Technology and machines to make green machines (robots) are crude oil dependent.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    March 13, 2014 11:07 p.m.

    I should get a DesNews story. I've perfected a way to convert diesel into cheap, out of state alcohol, by adding careful disguise and vehicular operation. It's like getting something for less than nothing.

  • mjkkjk Nowhere, 00
    March 13, 2014 9:24 p.m.

    The most important indicator that this is an important discovery is the fact that it was published in Science. That means it was peer reviewed by the top experts in this field (anonymously) with no financial incentive to accept the research into the journal.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    March 13, 2014 9:10 p.m.

    Bill McGee:

    re: "The risk here cannot be overstated."

    Unfortunately risks are overstated all the time. What is needed is a careful analysis that weighs the costs and benefits.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 13, 2014 7:21 p.m.

    @ Bill McGee

    I was wondering about the metals. Metals usually don't mix well with the human body.

    I'll wait for more information before I get excited. Still, the researchers deserve congratulations for the discovery and the hard work. Nice job.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    March 13, 2014 7:00 p.m.

    "In 2008 a 10% increase in production caused gasoline to drop from $4.40 a gallon all the way down to $1.85 in my town"

    That is so far from true. You may want to look at the world economy. It tanked big time in 2008.

    THAT is why gas prices plummeted.

  • MormonSean Provo, UT
    March 13, 2014 6:14 p.m.

    My wish list: A BYU Hydrogen car!

    Or a TARDIS... I'd be fine with either one. =)

  • Arizona Border Dude NACO, AZ
    March 13, 2014 6:00 p.m.

    Natural Gas requires a rather large and heavy bottle (tank) to contain it. It is usually loaded from a storage tank into the container by a compressor that fills the tank under pressure.

    The tank on the car has an expiration date requiring it to be replaced every few years.
    The average driver is not certified to fill their own tank.
    An auto accident where a fuel line is ruptured becomes a major HAZMAT situation.
    Natural gas stations are quite a bit more expensive to build and operate than gasoline.

    The argument about electric being less expensive is a strange issue. The car isn't plugged into a wall with a 200 mile extension cord. It requires batteries to operate. Recharge stations are very expensive to build in the quantity needed for long trips. A trip of three hours in a gas car may take four in an electric due to recharge times.

    The alcohol conversion seems to be a better way. The lubrication problem is a solvable issue. The distribution is a lot easier than Natural Gas fueled cars or electric recharge stations.

    This looks like a good thing.

  • Bill McGee Alpine, UT
    March 13, 2014 5:59 p.m.

    Not sure how great this news is. The metals used to convert natural gas to liquid form are poisonous.

    Thallium is highly toxic, soluble in water, readily absorbed through the skin, and is suspected of being carcinogenic. For many years it was used as rat poison, but even that use has been banned because it is so dangerous.

    We removed lead from gasoline decades ago because of high toxicity - in fact, there is no known safe threshold for lead exposure. It is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems.

    The risk here cannot be overstated.

  • Tilka PORTLAND, OR
    March 13, 2014 4:54 p.m.

    I hope a BYU professor can start work on the abundant hot air coming out of Washington D.C. and find a way to turn it into some sort of useful product.

  • The Final Word Alpine, UT
    March 13, 2014 4:52 p.m.


    "but isn't electricity the cheapest, easiest, and safest of all energy sources to transport/transmit?

    You mean that stuff that we run short of in various States where we have rolling blackouts? I'm sure we are ready to provide enough electricity for all the cars in America. /sarcasm would be really helpful if the left could see both sides of an issue and view it realistically instead of just believing and regurgitating the rosy propaganda the liberal media pumps out on a regular basis.

  • Shamal Happy Valley, UT
    March 13, 2014 4:22 p.m.


    "but isn't electricity the cheapest, easiest, and safest of all energy sources to transport/transmit?

    No, no and no. Every mile of cable introduces greater resistance. Storage is woefully inefficient and expensive. Not sure how to quantify safety but transporting and burning coal has to be near the top.
    Cheapest comes down to the cost of producing the energy. That starts will coal. Natural gas next. Hydro, wind and then solar at the far end of the spectrum.

  • rok Boise, CA
    March 13, 2014 3:55 p.m.

    the drop in gas price in 2008 from 4.40 to 1.85 had little if anything to do with any increase in production. It had to do with a tanking economy and speculators no longer speculating that the price of oil would continue to rise, so they all bailed on the oil commodities bubble.

  • Mikeylikesit Davis, UT
    March 13, 2014 3:03 p.m.

    Love my CNG!
    Utah is close behind CA (leading the US)for infrastructure for fueling them, but more are needed. In a totally CNG car, one cannot go to Boise, Northern CA, etc. More stations are needed. Also miles per gallon are almost the same as the gasoline versions of the same vehicle and that number could easily be doubled if the car makers would actually utilize the technologies available.
    Only total electric's run cleaner!
    (A couple of corrections: the picture is not a CNG filling station, cost to convert is more in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.)

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    March 13, 2014 2:57 p.m.

    What it comes down to, is which energy producing company (oil, ethanol, solar etc) company can get in the pant pockets of politicians, is the one that will win.

    We already see how green energy is in bed with barock, Pelosi, reid. As much as oil was in bed with bush etc.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    March 13, 2014 2:43 p.m.

    The real beauty of this process is the fact that it makes alcohol a viable alternative to oil as a fuel for our cars. In 2008 a 10% increase in production caused gasoline to drop from $4.40 a gallon all the way down to $1.85 in my town. Eliminate the scarcity of a commodity and it, and all the competing products experience a dramatic price drop.

    It costs $6,000 to convert a domestic vehicle to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). In Peru the cost is $300. There are difference in the safety requirement between the two countries. If the car is built to use CNG at the factory the is competitive with gasoline.

    I wish that the auto industry was required to make all cars CNG ready (becomes a bolt on option). The conversion kits would be dirt cheap. Some states also prohibit the sale of CNG to the general public. I would deport all elected officials who supported that kind of nonsense.

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    March 13, 2014 2:39 p.m.

    Jack from Ark
    Hensley, AR
    Folks the beauty of this is ambient temp storage and transport. It is much safer to transport and store methanol than it is to store and transport high pressure natural gas.


    but isn't electricity the cheapest, easiest, and safest of all energy sources to transport/transmit?

    the internal combustion engine is only 16% energy efficient.

    As good as an idea this maybe,
    it is still finite, and not renewable.

    It is a bridge or crutch technology at best,
    limited by an ever dwindling supply.

    An ouce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.

    Save, conserve, and reduce demand is still our best hope.

  • EPoint Roy, UT
    March 13, 2014 2:32 p.m.

    Is it too conspiratorial to wonder what the oil companies might do to thwart any alternative to being at their mercy?

  • Jack from Ark Hensley, AR
    March 13, 2014 2:10 p.m.

    Folks the beauty of this is ambient temp storage and transport. It is much safer to transport and store methanol than it is to store and transport high pressure natural gas.You are correct that alcohol is a solvent and more work needs to be done to get it automobile friendly. But the technology is there to do this. This alone could be the discovery that truly brings the US out of foreign fuel dependency. Great work BYU

  • rw123 Sandy, UT
    March 13, 2014 1:47 p.m.

    There are exciting things happening every day in R & D in corporate, academic, and government labs. We only hear about a small fraction of them in the news. Having said that, this does sound like a significant breakthrough. Way to go researchers.

    @Open Minded Mormon

    No worries, just a small correction. If I remember my college chemistry, theoretically there are an infinite number of alcohols as all it takes to be an alcohol is for the molecule to have a hydroxyl group attached to an sp3 carbon, which is very common. It's been awhile, but that's how I remember it. Perhaps you mean there are only 20 commercially important alcohols used in bulk in industry or as precursors for other chemicals?

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    March 13, 2014 1:25 p.m.

    So we have yet another low-heat-emission means of creating energy.

    . . . Kind of like cold fusion.

    Utah research universities are really imaginative.


  • Thid Barker Victor, ID
    March 13, 2014 1:22 p.m.

    Its because the gasoline you are now buying is 10% ethanol (more in some states) made from corn or sugarcane.

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, 00
    March 13, 2014 12:55 p.m.

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Using the Natural Gas without the added expense of this distillary process is the better way to go.

    Alcohol is a petroleum solvent.
    Using it is harder on the engines,
    because it dissolves the lubrication.

    BTW --
    There are about 20 different types of alcohol.
    What kind is it, or is that the trade "secret".

  • Rational Salt Lake City, UT
    March 13, 2014 12:19 p.m.

    Why not just develop natural gas stations and have automobiles run on the natural gas itself? There is already tremendous transport infrastructure in place (though it may not be sufficient to handle the increased demand) and the technology for cars to run on natural gas is already in place as well?

    Natural gas burns 30% cleaner than gasoline, 42% cleaner than coal. Is liquid alcohol that much cleaner? Perhaps it reduces methane gas because it turns that into methanol.