Natural Gas Conversion vs. Syngas Routes: Future of Convergence
A global boutique consultancy, we serve our clients in two ways: via client directed projects (TCG Consulting) and via various programs and studies (TCG Resources).

Natural Gas Conversion vs. Syngas Routes: Future of Convergence



Natural Gas Conversion vs. Syngas Routes: A Future of Convergence

Vol. 1: Natural Gas to Intermediates and Feedstocks to Syngas – completed October 2014
Vol. 2: Syngas and Natural Gas Conversion to Products – completed November 2014

The “revolution” in natural gas (NG) as a result of shale-derived sources has spurred a growing interest in new routes/processes for its conversion to fuels and chemicals, in competition with traditional syngas feedstocks. These include direct/indirect methane conversion, dry reforming and hybrids that are emerging, and indeed converging, to create economic opportunities. Considerable government, academic and industrial R&D investment funding is being channeled into these potential breakthroughs given the tremendous rewards potentially available. Adding to this excitement, the potential for pilot and converging science to find new and cheaper routes to olefins and derivatives sets the stage for an interesting competitive future.

A Future of Convergence…

Natural gas (NG) conversion and syngas production/conversion are on converging paths towards lower cost olefins and chemicals. Among the innovations warranting a closer look on their progress include:

  • Oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) progress by OCMOL; UNICAT; Siluria Technologies; and Dow.
  • Dry reforming by Carbon Sciences; Calcor
  • ENI’s CPO technology adaptable from hydrogen.
  • Synfuels gas-to-ethylene (GTE) via hydrogenation of acetylene.
  • Quantium Technologies, Canada, with BASF and IRAP e.g. CAMOL and more advanced research in catalytic olefins.
  • BP and Celanese developments in direct acetyls insitu conversion to alcohols and acids. BP’s ethanol to ethylene Hummingbird® and SaaBre® acetic acid routes.
  • Advanced gasification to syngas approaches, e.g. Rocketdyne, Bluegas
  • Methane pyrolysis
  • Off-gases to olefins and alcohols via bio-routes e.g. LanzaTech
  • Mixed olefin/alcohol processes, Matric and Sinopec.

Based on historical R&D, many believe methane conversion and syngas production are separate and distinct production sciences (i.e., mutually exclusive). There is gathering evidence today that they need not be mutually exclusive, but rather benefit from synergistic science and process engineering convergence.

In our study series, entitled Natural Gas Conversion vs. Gas Syngas Routes: A Future of Convergence, completed in two volumes, TCGR is conducting an integrated, strategic technical and commercial assessment of natural gas/C1 conversion routes with a broadened scope so that the impacts of syngas production/conversion routes can be compared. There is no doubt that natural gas routes to a range of intermediates will be vying for markets traditionally served by syngas; this “convergence” of feedstocks and routes is worthy of detailed assessment. TCGR is uniquely qualified to assist its subscribers in such an evaluation, whether it is for opportunity identification or threat assessment!

Highlights of Vol 1: Natural Gas to Intermediates and Feedstocks to Syngas:

  • Industrial pilot plant progress stands in stark contrast to the academic stalemates. More radical approaches such as modified pyrolysis, biological and hybrids as step-outs are winning serious investment
  • Improved yield and process economics can be achieved via mixed product slates e.g., mixed alcohols
  • Mixed NG and other feedstocks (CO2, waste gases, other) are proving to be more amenable to improved conversion and yield than NG/methane alone
  • Combining endothermic/exothermic reactions in a new reactor designs, as well as containing and recycling CO2, will provide significant economic and environmental benefits

Highlights of Vol. 2: Syngas and Natural Gas Conversion to Products/Fuels:

  • The methanol market model and pricing will be challenged due to 1) lower cost feedstocks, 2) lower manufacturing costs, and 3) breakthrough process technologies.
  • Gas to Gasoline (GTG) technology can breakeven with gasoline from crude at less than $100/bbl. This provides an attractive option to monetize low-cost natural gas.
  • Hydrogen production via water splitting is required for a true step-change in ammonia production costs. However, potential economic improvements via the use of membranes for hydrogen separation are nearer term
  • Processes capable of producing mixed and/or adjustable product slates (e.g., BP SaaBreTM) will be able to take advantage of market flexibility.
  • Off-gas conversion processes allow the use of (almost) zero cost feedstock and are well-positioned to take advantage of future carbon taxes.

Further information on the study, including the complete study presentation, the Table of Contents for each Volume and the Order Form can be downloaded below. For additional study details or to subscribe, please contact TCGR’s Mr. John J. Murphy via telephone at +1.215.628.4447 or via email at


The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR), a member of The Catalyst Group, is dedicated to monitoring and analyzing technical and commercial developments in catalysis as they apply to the global refining, petrochemical, fine/specialty chemical, pharmaceutical, polymer/elastomer and environmental industries.