There is no evidence that significant reductions in the carbon dioxide emissions associated with power generation will be achieved using current commercial alternatives to abundant and low-cost fossil fuels. The massive infrastructure and equipment changes required for such a transition would require multiple decades if and when a serious commitment is made and an economical transition pathway identified. However, the stored chemical potential in fossil fuels may be economically utilized for decades in less conventional processes to produce chemical fuels including hydrogen and ammonia without producing any carbon dioxide at all. Such processes may be more cost effective than other options and more readily and cost-effectively implemented. Ongoing work to understand the fundamental catalytic processes of methane conversion to chemicals and fuels in the absence of oxygen will be described together with the techno economic driving factors. Advances and innovation in the chemical science and reaction engineering could have enormous impact on global use of fossil resources into the future.
Eric McFarland is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He studied Nuclear Engineering and received his Ph.D. from MIT. His present research focus is in catalysis and reaction engineering related to energy conversion. McFarland has always worked closely with industry on problems related to energy and chemical production and he has held senior management positions in several companies related to his University research and is an active advisor to industry. McFarland recently returned to UCSB from a two-year position as the founding Director of the Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation and Dow Chemical Chair of Chemical Engineering at the University of Queensland, Australia.