RTI International developing novel technology to convert CO2 to high-value chemicals

EDMONTON, ALBERTA — Researchers at RTI International are developing a novel process technology that will convert carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon resources into high-value chemicals that are used to produce everyday products such as ski boots and fishing rods. 

The project was selected under a Grand Challenge from a total of 334 submissions from 37 countries by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) of Alberta, Canada.

RTI’s new “C3-PEO” process technology will use carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that otherwise would be emitted to the atmosphere, for the production of ethylene oxide. The process is based on a novel catalytic reaction scheme developed by RTI that can extract oxygen from CO2. The highly reactive oxygen atom can then be utilized for other reactions, in this case to convert ethylene to valuable ethylene oxide. The process also produces CO, which is a valuable precursor for the production of many other high volume chemicals. 

“Our novel process can have an impact throughout the world’s chemical industry because the primary products, ethylene oxide and carbon monoxide, are some of the most important starting materials for common products made by major chemical companies ranging from bulk chemicals to detergents to cosmetics,” said Paul Mobley, research chemical engineer at RTI and the project’s director. “We are excited that the CCEMC recognized the potential of this new technology.”

“The Grand Challenge is a unique venture for the CCEMC with a goal to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fostering the development of technologies that create new carbon-based, value-added products and markets,” said CCEMC Chair Eric Newell. 

Under the initial $500,000 award, the project team will develop the process design, enhance the catalyst, demonstrate the catalyst performance in a laboratory reactor, and complete a techno-economic analysis of the technology.

“Based on RTI’s experience in taking new processes from initial concept to large scale demonstration, we’ve charted a development roadmap to advance the technology through pilot plant development into pre-commercial demonstration and commercialization by 2020,” said Markus Lesemann, senior director for business development at RTI.  “Since global climate change is a rising challenge, processes, such as C3-PEO, that can use CO2 in large volumes to make valuable products can play an important role in the adoption of carbon capture technologies.”

RTI's Energy Technology Division develops process and catalyst technologies for and in collaboration with government and industrial clients in the fields of carbon capture and utilization, syngas clean-up and conversion, biomass conversion, shale gas processing, and industrial water treatment.