On October 25th, 2019, researchers at Texas A&M University in Qatar developed CARGEN reactor, an innovative technology that could reduce Qatar’s overall carbon footprint. The project received a $5 million grant from the Qatar National Research Fund’s National Priorities Research Program.
The CARGEN reactor technology was developed by the following group of professors from Texas A&M: Professor Nimir O. Elbashir from Texas A&M in Qatar, with the collaboration of Professor Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi and Debalina Sengupta from the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station.
Professor Elbashir has directed the prestigious Gas and Fuels Research Center (GFRC), which is one of the largest Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) research centers and initiatives. TEES is staffed by 32 multidisciplinary scientists and/or professors from both Texas A&M in Texas and in Qatar. Professor Elbashir’s research has focused on the gas to liquid (GTL) conversion, which is a process that converts natural gas into valuable hydrocarbon products. One of the major disadvantages of GTL conversion is that it emits high quantities of carbon dioxide. However, this latest technological advancement completely bypasses this issue.
The CARGEN technology was created to augment the dry reforming of natural gas. This process converts methane and CO2 via a reactor in order to produce Syngas, which is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that is subsequently processed to make liquid hydrocarbons and ultra-clean fuels, and high-quality solid carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Most notably, this new technology does not require conventional heat to trigger the required chemical reaction for the reforming processes. Specifically, instead of relying on fossil fuels to create heat, this technology can employ electric or solar power, thus resulting in lower carbon dioxide emissions.
An additional benefits stemming from this innovative conversion process would be the following: CNTs can be used in Qatar’s cement and steel industries, while, syngas, can be transformed into ultra-clean fuels and/or value-added products.
“It’s a homegrown technology developed in Qatar based on the interest of Qatar to utilize and sequester CO2 and reduce the country’s carbon footprint. We are producing material out of it, not just liquid fuel that will be burned to produce something else or power a car, for example, which then puts CO2 back into the atmosphere. If we can scale up this technology, it will be a turning point for everyone worried about CO2,” commented Prof. Elbashir on the technology’s significance both from a local and international perspective.
Mohamed Sufiyan Challiwala, student and a major contributor to the project, emphasized another important advantage of CARGEN by stating the following, “CARGEN provides a new perspective on the implementation of natural gas reforming technology. Rather than considering carbon or ‘coke’ formation as a process challenge, CARGEN treats it as an opportunity to convert at least 65 percent of CO2 per pass with 50 percent lower energy requirements. Most importantly, it produces CNTs and carbon fibers that are considered next-generation materials with tremendous applications. Because of its uniqueness, this process is now patented with the support of Qatar Foundation.”’
(Image Source: Texas A&M)