Bayer looks for source of benzene, pushes research consortium
The region's cheap supply of shale gas could solve another problem if government and industry collaborate on new ways to convert it to benzene, a local Bayer Corp. executive said at a Downtown conference on Thursday.
The company's MaterialScience division in Robinson is pushing for a research consortium, possibly with the help of National Energy Technology Laboratory, said Don S. Wardius, head of renewable and alternative feedstocks.
Chemical companies use benzene to make foam car seats, sporting goods and paints, but it's expensive and will probably need to be imported to replace declining supplies, Wardius said.
“This is a vision,” he told about 130 researchers, government officials, and chemical and gas industry officials at the “Manufacturing Renaissance Series.” “It could be revolutionary and transformative if it were to come about.”
Bayer has been talking about the project with federal officials for about a year, said Andrew J. Gellman, the head of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who sat on the same panel and works with the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park.
The key is finding a catalyst to make the conversion cheap enough to lower the price of benzene, they said.
“Bayer isn't wild about producing benzene itself,” Gellman said after the talk. “But they would love to have another company supply them.”
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and the university organized the conference to help manufacturers, the business community, government and researchers collaborate on ways to maximize the cheap supply of gas coming from the Marcellus and other shale formations. The idea for benzene is similar to what Royal Dutch Shell plc and other companies are proposing to make ethylene in the region: Take cheap fuels from shale wells and break them down into raw materials manufacturers use.
Though benzene has many uses, few companies produce it, with its supplies coming mostly as a byproduct of other work, Wardius said. Its production declined 20 percent since 2007, and importing it is now the best solution available, he said.
Funding a research team could cost about $1 million, he said after his presentation. Bayer executives considered doing the project internally but decided it needed broader expertise.
A profitable solution is not guaranteed, and having a public-private partnership would mitigate that risk and help supply the level of expertise required, Wardius added.
Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Manufacturing cranks up production pace
- Regulators release details of Highmark’s post-UPMC transition plan
- More pipelines proposed to carry Marcellus gas to southeast markets
- Visual search still hampered by image issues
- 2 top technology officers leave UPMC
- EDMC reaches debt-restructuring deal with creditors
- Disney files patent for drone-controlled puppets
- Healthy PA expands number of recipients but cuts benefits
- Gas drilling company withdraws application for forced pooling in Western Pennsylvania
- Students walk shop class path to excellence
- Young adults drive home rental trend in Western Pennsylvania