A subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc. said Thursday it has agreed with a biological engineering firm to explore gas-to-liquids (GTL) opportunities that could find it building, owning and operating facilities in the Appalachian Basin.
Dominion Energy and Intrexon Corp. said they would explore converting natural gas to isobutanol, a fuel that can be used as a gasoline additive, solvent and for several other applications. Dominion would source natural gas and provide facilities for Intrexon's technology to make the isobutanol on a commercial scale. Intrexon claims that its technology is less costly and less resource-intensive than other GTL conversion methods.
"We are excited to partner with [Intrexon] and help realize the promise of their GTL platform to harness a plentiful feedstock in natural gas for the bio-production of isobutanol," said Dominion Energy President Diane Leopold.
In recent years, the U.S. has been seen at the forefront for GTL technologies given its abundant shale gas resources (see Daily GPI, May 15). Intrexon said Dominion would be the exclusive partner to construct, own and operate the GTL facilities in the Marcellus and Utica shales. It's unclear how large those facilities could be, but interest in small-scale facilities with smaller, more efficient equipment has been growing. Those facilities offer cost advantages when compared to the handful of massive refinery-size GTL complexes oversees.
A separate company has plans to build a small-scale GTL facility in Northeast Ohio and the world's first small-scale plant is being constructed in Oklahoma City (see Shale Daily, June 25, 2014). Those kinds of plants would convert natural gas into diesel fuel, jet fuel, synthetic lubricants and waxes.
"Dominion's operational leadership in natural gas processing and transport along with their extensive geographic footprint makes them an ideal partner to scale-up and commercialize [Intrexon's] bioconversion platform," said Robert Walsh, head of Intrexon's energy sector.
Intrexon said the conversion of natural gas to isobutanol provides economic and environmental advantages in comparison to other additives, including cleaner burning combustion, less corrosion and preserving more of the gasoline's energy content.
Intrexon offers biological engineering services in the health, food, energy, consumer and environmental industries.