BP to award $20 million grant to Caltech, UC-Berkeley

BP said it has established a research program at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California at Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) to study the catalytic conversion of methane, the principal component of natural gas, into liquid fuels and chemicals. BP will give the schools $20 million to conduct the 10-year research project.


BP said it has established a research program at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California at Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) to study the catalytic conversion of methane, the principal component of natural gas, into liquid fuels and chemicals. BP will give the schools $20 million to conduct the 10-year research project.

The joint research program between UC Caltech and Berkeley is similar to a program previously announced for England's Cambridge University.

The research will be directed by faculty members and will involve undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral level students. Under the pending BP-funded proposal, each of the universities will work closely with BP during its study of methane conversion.

The discovery of large reserves of natural gas in many parts of the world, some very remote, has stimulated efforts by BP to catalytically convert methane to useful end products, such as much cleaner fuels and chemicals that are more economical to transport and market, said the supermajor.

"We believe the next breakthrough in natural gas to liquids, which will help bring us the next generation of cleaner-burning fuels, will come from catalysis combined with process engineering," said Sir John Browne, group chief executive of BP.

Since BP considers liquefaction and shipping of natural gas are expensive, Browne said, the conversion of its principal component, methane, into useful end products is very attractive.

The UC-Berkeley group will be headed by Alexis Bell and will focus on heterogeneous catalytic approaches for producing liquid fuels and chemicals. The Caltech team, led by Jay Labinger and John Bercaw, will develop novel homogeneous catalytic approaches.

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