Chemistry makes it happen: Making natural gas from biomass.

H.C. Starck, Newton, Mass., and Clausthaler Umwelttechnik-Institut , Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany, have joined forces to develop a completely new generation of catalyzers and process technology for the production of substitute natural gas from biomass as a renewable energy source.

The two organizations have engineered a range of catalyzers with an oxide base containing cobalt, molybdenum and aluminum, which have been successfully tested under laboratory and pilot plant conditions. The catalyzers proved to be robust and reclaimable, even under the most unfavorable conditions, having achieved high yields with which the synthesis of substitute natural gas is possible, according to the groups.

The use of biomass to generate energy offers multiple advantages. For instance, the energy supply is not dependent on naturally occurring forces of nature and it can be used to generate heat and electricity. At the same time, it conserves increasingly scarce fossil fuels. In the past, gasification of biomass, lacked economically efficient materials and processes.