Purdue wins $19M federal grant to develop shale-fuel technology

A new engineering research center at Purdue University has won a $19.75 million federal grant to develop technologies to produce transportation fuels from shale-gas deposits—a move aimed at boosting the nation’s power needs.

The university won the five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Purdue announced Tuesday.

The money is expected to provide an early boost to a new research center housed Purdue’s Discovery Park in West Lafayette, called the Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources.

“Alkane” refers to saturated hydrocarbons such as methane, ethane and propane. The center proposes to convert light hydrocarbons from shale gas into chemicals and transportation fuels, using a network of modular processing plants.

Purdue estimated there is enough energy in shale to provide all of the nation’s transportation fuels for 100 years.

“Until we can perfect renewable resources, we have a tremendous resource right here in the United States,” Sangtae Kim, head of Purdue’s Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, said in a written statement. “We can use domestic shale resources as a bridge until renewable technologies can completely support our society’s needs for chemicals and transportation fuels.”

Purdue said the technology could result in lower carbon emissions by reducing the cost of extracting natural gas and improving energy efficiency in converting light hydrocarbons to fuels and chemicals.

The center, which will begin operating Oct. 1, will include academic teams of researchers from Purdue, the University of New Mexico, Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Texas at Austin. It also will include partners from industry, national laboratories and outside research organizations.

Industrial and industry partners also will contribute an unspecified amount of additional funding and resources.

The center will be led by Fabio Ribeiro, Purdue professor of chemical engineering.

The National Science Foundation is a U.S. government agency that supports research and education in non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its director is France Cordova, former president of Purdue.

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