Features - June 2013

News Release

Release Date: June 1, 2011

NETL Licensing Agreement Results in New Start-Up Company 
New Catalyst Technology will be Used for Fuel Reforming to Produce Hydrogen

Pittsburgh - The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has executed an exclusive licensing agreement with the newly formed Pyrochem Catalyst Corporation for two NETL-developed technologies related to a novel fuel-reforming catalyst. This agreement marks the first time that an NETL-licensed technology has been used as a basis for the creation of a start-up company.

Established with financial support from Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works, Pyrochem Catalyst will conduct its research and development activities in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is hoped that the successful commercialization of the catalyst will lead to the creation of high-technology jobs in the region.

A “monolith” reactor for reforming hydrocarbon-based fuels. The reactor is created by depositing NETL’s novel pyrochlore catalyst on a honeycombed alumina structure. The catalyst converts heavy hydrocarbons, such as diesel and coal-based fuels, into hydrogen-rich synthesis gas for use in fuel cells and other applications.

NETL research has focused on converting heavy hydrocarbons, such as diesel and coal-based fuels, into hydrogen-rich synthesis gas—a necessary step for fuel cells and other applications. The high sulfur and aromatic content of these fuels poses a major technical challenge, since these components can deactivate reforming catalysts. The first of NETL’s patent-pending technologies relates to using catalysts with a pyrochlore-type structure to reform hydrocarbon fuels, while the second involves a method for designing a reforming catalyst. Together these inventions help overcome limitations of current catalysts by efficiently reforming diesel fuel while maintaining thermal stability and resistance to sulfur, aromatics, and carbon formation.

Developing stable catalysts to convert diesel fuel to pure hydrogen is an important advance in the implementation of fuel cells in areas such as stationary power generation and transportation. The ability to produce hydrogen at the diesel source point will allow for more efficient and economical generation of hydrogen and lead to greater adoption of fuel cell technology.
Work at Pyrochem Catalyst will initially focus on further developing NETL’s pyrochlore catalyst for use in fuel cell auxiliary power systems to provide non-propulsion power for vehicles, including long-haul truck transport, and to supply power in several military power applications. The technology will also be developed for use in distributed or onsite electricity generation, which is inherently efficient since the electricity is generated near the point of use, reducing energy loss due to transmission.

The use of pyrochlore catalysts in conjunction with hydrogen-based fuel cell auxiliary power systems will reduce the economic and environmental costs of diesel engine idling. Significant monetary savings will be realized through decreased fuel consumption and extended engine life. Environmentally, reduced diesel usage will result in lower emissions of oxides and particulate matter.