Breakthrough in the activation of methane

Grillo-Werke AG successfully converts methane into methanesulfonic acid

21-Jun-2016 - Germany

The functionalization of methane to a high-value chemical has been achieved by Germany’s chemical company Grillo after years of intensive research. The new process leads to high-purity methanesulfonic acid (MSA) by direct sulfonation of methane with sulfurtrioxide. Start of large-scale production is planned for 2019.

© Grillo-Werke AG

Methanesulfonic acid from Grillo-Werke AG, produced in the Duisburg demo plant.

Methane is the main component of natural gas and is, thus far, primarily being burned for heat and energy. Industry and science has been searching intensively for a material utilization of methane. Besides direct sulfonation, which has now been achieved by Grillo, research focuses on direct oxidation of methane to methanol and oxidative coupling to ethylene.

Grillo’s Chemicals Division has solved the challenge of methane’s limited reactivity thanks to a tailored reaction environment and specific activators. The process has been continuously optimized and now achieves almost full conversion at mild reaction conditions.

The process called Grillo-Methane-Sulfonation is highly cost-competitive. It is based on natural gas and sulfur trioxide (SO3) as feedstocks and is free of environmentally problematic intermediate and by-products.

Methanesulfonic acid is a modern, green product. It is a very strong acid that is not oxidative; it is readily biodegradable and toxicologically unproblematic. MSA is being used in the electroplating, electronics, industrial cleaning and pharmaceutical industries.

Other news from the department science

Most read news

More news from our other portals

Is artificial intelligence revolutionising chemistry?