Scientists Suggest Use of Crystals to Remove Impurities from Natural Gas

Scientists Suggest Use of Crystals to Remove Impurities from Natural Gas

Scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed a metal-organic framework (MOF) that can remove troublesome impurities of natural gas such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in simpler and more effective way.

According the researchers, it is way to upgrade the natural gas that could help Saudi Arabia to make cleaner and better use of its abundant supplies of natural gas containing high levels of the two impurities. Advances in technology could also increase the use of natural gas and other industrial that contain Co2 and H2S, to extract high economic as well as environmental benefits.

Natural gas mainly contains methane (CH4) and smaller quantities of useful hydrocarbons along with certain impurities. When devoid of such contaminants, natural gas can burn in a cleaner way as compared to other fossil fuels; it does not emit any harmful particulates, carbon dioxide, and polluting oxides of nitrogen and sulfur.

The researchers believed that the new invention will support Vision 2030 program of Saudi Arabia. The main objective of this major initiative is to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on its large oil production and to develop innovative and ecologically sustainable technologies. Further, it includes the goal to extract over 70% of energy entirely from natural gas.

According to Youssef Belmabkhout, a member of the KAUST team, in order to meet such challenging target, it is necessary to improve the use of natural gas that usually contain high level of impurities, especially CO2 and H2S.

The researchers explained that the metal-organic framework typically comprises of metal clusters or ions held together by ‘linkers’, a carbon-based organic compound group. Rearrangement of these linkers as well as inorganic molecular building blocks make improvements in chemical properties and size of the MOF’s pore system that allows to perform several significant functions.

The team successfully developed a fluorine-containing MOF with a pore system, enabling selective adsorption of the main impurities from the natural gas source.

Professor Mohamed Eddaoudi who led the recent study said that developments in MOF chemistry at the University have led to construction and design of various MOF platforms with a potential to meet the challenges associated with environmental sustainability and energy security. 

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