Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a truly international imperative, can be accomplished by 1) increasing the use of renewable forms of energy or 2) using fossil fuels more efficiently. Reaction35, LLC (formerly Gas Reaction Technologies, Inc.), formed in 1999, is attempting to do both. Working with the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), Reaction35 has developed and is commercializing a new process that converts both renewable biomass and natural gas into high-octane gasoline and other liquid transportation fuels.
Studies by the U.S. Department of Energy report that over 1.3 billion tons of non-food biomass could be practically collected each year. Virtually all of this biomass could be transformed by the GRT process into renewable gasoline, resulting in the replacement of approximately 1/3 of the U.S. gasoline demand.
It is estimated that over 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas are flared or burned annually, releasing 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment each year, and over 100 bcm of natural gas (primarily methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) is vented or lost through fugitive emissions in the oil and gas sector each year, adding the equivalent of another 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. This amount exceeds the combined annual gas consumption of Germany and France and is enough to supply the entire world for at least twenty days. Not surprisingly, reducing gas flaring and venting is poised to become a major contribution of the oil and gas industry to energy efficiency, energy security and sustainable development. Transforming flared and vented gas into high octane gasoline through the Reaction35 process converts an environmental liability into a high value product with a volume potential of 25% of the U.S. gasoline demand.
The collaboration between UCSB and Reaction35 started back in 1999, when the just formed Reaction35 reviewed reports from the research laboratory of Dr. Galen Stucky at UCSB. The reports described work at UCSB on new transition metals that were related to GRT’s quest. In 1999, the two organizations began to work together through a simple research agreement resulting in the joint invention and development of the core technology for their gas-to-liquid process. Reaction35 licensed the resulting inventions for commercial development.
What started as a simple research agreement has grown into alliances between Reaction35 and several major oil and petrochemical companies, such as Marathon Oil Corporation, focused on bringing the technology into the commercial market. It has also brought UCSB over $3.0 million in research funding. Reaction35 plans to continue to work closely with the University of California to meet its research and work force needs.
Reaction35 relocated from Texas to Santa Barbara, California in 2002 to be closer to UCSB. It has grown from 7 employees in 2004 to 20 employees today. For the past 5 years, operating costs have averaged $4.3 million annually, including $1.8 million in payroll. Its employees and consultants, with few exceptions, are California residents and its lab supplies, rent and other services are purchased primarily from California vendors. Over half of its employees are either UCSB alumni or have some other tie to UCSB.