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Fossil Fuels

Chemistry In Pictures

Chemistry in Pictures: Big orange

by Craig Bettenhausen
March 7, 2023

A massive oceangoing vessel with large orange spheres as the cargo.
Credit: Courtesy of Graforce

Methane is traded worldwide at huge volumes, and it usually travels the sea in vessels like this one in the form of liquified natural gas, or LNG. Such ships can hold around 130,000 m3 and carry LNG at a fridgid-162 C. To maintain that temperature, each of those giant orange orbs has a thick layer of insulation between the outside air and the cryogenic fluid inside.

Natural gas is a mix of gaseous fossil fuel hydrocarbons, containing between 70 and 95% methane, CH4. Burning it emits less carbon dioxide per joule of heat than with coal, oil, or gasoline. But its uses as a fuel or as a feedstock for hydrogen production are still major sources of CO2 emissions worldwide. A company called Graforce is looking to sidestep CO2 in the use of methane. It uses high-energy plasma to split CH4 into H2 and solid carbon. That H2 could then be used as a low-carbon fuel or chemical feedstock. Graforce is not alone. The start-ups Monolith and C-Zero are also developing methane pyrolysis, as is the chemical giant BASF.

Courtesy of Graforce

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