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Partial Oxidation Produces Synthesis Gas with Adjustable Hydrogen to Carbon Monoxide Ratio

Technology #97135

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Partial Oxidation with Adjustable H:CO RatiosFuel CellHydrogen Carbon Monoxide
Lanny D. Schmidt, PhD
Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, School of Science and Engineering
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Larry Micek
Technology Licensing Officer 612-624-9568
Patent Protection
US Patent 6,254,807
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Adjustable H:CO Term Sheet [PDF]

Partial Oxidation with Adjustable Hydrogen to Carbon Monoxide Ratios

The hydrogen to carbon monoxide ratio in partial oxidation reactions can be adjusted by contacting the feed containing the reactants, methane and oxygen, and either water or carbon dioxide over a catalyst. When water is used, more hydrogen is produced; when carbon dioxide is used, the product mix shifts towards carbon monoxide. For natural gas to be an effective source of hydrogen for fuel cells there must be a simple, high yield conversion mechanism. For other applications such as acetic acid synthesis, pure carbon monoxide feeds are required. The described invention moves towards a flexible system where each is possible.

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More Efficient Partial Oxidation of Methane

Synthesis gas, carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is a key precursor in the synthesis of most organic chemicals. The production of these feedstock molecules from methane and water is generally performed using a steam reforming reaction which requires large amount of energy, contact times in the order of seconds and produces hydrogen to carbon monoxide ratios unsuitable for important synthetic pathways such as methanol or Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Partial oxidation of methane (or other alkanes), the production of carbon monoxide and hydrogen using limited amounts of oxygen, is an exothermic reaction but can still produce hydrogen to carbon monoxide ratios that are unsuitable for some reaction pathways.


  • Lower energy reaction than conventional steam reforming.
  • Higher control: adding water to the feedstock produces more hydrogen, adding carbon dioxide to the feedstock produces more carbon monoxide.
  • Higher selectivity can produce better feedstock for fuel cells (hydrogen rich) or acetic acid synthesis (carbon monoxide rich).