Making Methane Less Harmful: How New Technology Can Play a Role

Industrial complex at night

(DGIwire) – Global warming: it’s a topic familiar to almost everyone. The degradation of the earth remains a generational issue that we cannot escape. One of the most notorious contributors to global warming is methane gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Limited solutions – if we can call them that – currently exist; however, none have been able to mitigate methane’s negative impact while beneficially utilizing it – until now.

According to the EPA, methane is the second most commonly emitted greenhouse and is 25 times more damaging than the most prevalent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. Despite the United States achieving a 15 percent reduction in methane emissions between 1990 and 2013, according to the EPA, Earth’s continued sustainability demands more.

Statutory regulation has played an important role in reducing methane gas emissions in recent history, but what if it could be profitable rather than burdensome for industry – namely oil and gas, ethanol and petrochemical facilities – to comply with regulations?

The average methane-producing facility currently complies with environmental standards through a variety of emissions destruction techniques – a process that attempts to incinerate pollutants before releasing the gas into the atmosphere. As such, 150 billion cubic meters of gas are flared off into the atmosphere annually, according to the World Bank. If society could find a way to productively utilize this gas, rather than to destroy it or vent it into the atmosphere, it would represent enough energy to power about 50 percent of the United States every year.

“Many of these companies are literally burning money as they continue to use emissions destruction systems,” says Alain Castro, CEO of Ener-Core, Inc. “Rather than flaring off waste gases, our systems offer a means for the industrial facilities to produce their own power from their waste gases. This, in turn, enables them to reduce their costs of purchasing power from their utility, which improves their bottom line. All of this can be achieved, while operating at near-zero emissions levels—a victory for both the bottom line and the environment.”

In contrast to emissions destruction systems, Ener-Core’s Power Oxidizer technology utilizes low-quality methane (and the many contaminants that are also normally found in the waste gases from industrial facilities), traditionally flared due to its low quality and lack of combustibility (the traditional means of power generation). Instead of attempting to destroy the gas with a flare or other emissions destruction device, Ener-Core’s revolutionary technology harnesses harmful gases such as low-quality methane and uses them to produce electricity or steam. The electricity produced by Ener-Core’s systems can be used by the facility (thereby enabling it to significantly reduce its energy bill), or the facility can also choose to sell the electricity back to the grid. Ironically, energy generated through Power Oxidation can be used as an alternative to traditional power sources that are America’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Ener-Core offers a compelling solution to the detrimental effects of low-quality methane gas, as well as other low-quality greenhouse gases and Volatile Organic Compounds that reside within industrial waste gases,” adds Castro. “Furthermore, our technology offers some of the largest industrial emitters of methane an opportunity to significantly enhance their industrial efficiency through environmentally conscious means.”

As Ener-Core’s technology incentivizes industrial polluters to reduce the amount of gas flared into the atmosphere, opportunities arise for a stronger economy and a healthier environment.