Curtin research results in new way to sweeten natural gas

Media release

Curtin University of Technology’s Professor Robert Amin has developed a more efficient and cost-effective way of removing contaminants from natural gas streams.

His innovation is the winner of the 2009 Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards announced today.

The annual awards, run by Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation and sponsored this year by Griffith Hack patent attorneys, acknowledge the best commercially-oriented innovation arising from research by Curtin staff and students.

Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation Director, Rohan McDougall, said Professor Amin’s innovation could significantly benefit the gas processing industry and help in the ever increasing global demand for energy.

“Forty per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves are contaminated with hydrogen sulphide and/or carbon dioxide that must be removed before the gas can be used,” he said.

“With global demand for energy rapidly growing, the world’s energy companies are constantly seeking new and more efficient ways to extract the most from the limited reserves of hydrocarbons.

Professor Amin’s new process has the advantages of being energy efficient and requires lower infrastructure costs than alternative methods.

It also results in minimal loss of hydrocarbons in the separation process and is versatile enough to adapt to a wide range of gas compositions.

In addition, both hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide can be captured individually with 99 per cent purity and can be used in other processes or sequested.”

Curtin and Professor Amin are currently working with a number of commercial groups to establish a pilot plant to bring the technology to market.

Curtin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Development, Professor Linda Kristjanson, commended the winning project.

“Professor Amin’s work is an excellent example of the leading edge research and innovation that takes place at Curtin and a very deserving winner of the top prize in the awards,” she said.

“Curtin staff and students have an excellent track record in conducting high level, industry-relevant research which can provide significant benefits to the community, with many of the projects offering real commercial potential.

The Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards is one important way in which Curtin is helping to encourage innovation among our staff and students, and to ensure that this positive culture is able to thrive at the University.”

The other two finalists who won prizes at the awards were:

Professor Svetha Venkatesh, who was runner-up, with a statistically based abnormality detection system that provides detection of abnormal events, such as loitering and potentially dangerous behaviour in real time even in the presence of large numbers of people behaving normally. The development of this technology will lead to improved security responses to events of interest in areas where public safety is of major concern.

Dr Qin Li, winning a commendation award for a new nanotechnology method of producing light emitting carbon dots that can be used as targeted drug carriers in treatment and imaging of cancers and in other applications such as the production of LEDs and solar cells. The new process produces very small water-soluble dots through an environmentally friendly and scalable process.

Note to Editor:

About Professor Robert Amin: He is the Director of the Woodside Hydrocarbon Research Centre in Curtin’s School of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. Professor Amin is an international leader in the field of gas processing technology and has worked collaboratively with some of the world’s largest gas producers including Shell and Woodside. He has a strong track record in developing commercially relevant technology having filed six patents in the area of gas processing.

About Curtin IP Commercialisation: Curtin established a pre-seed fund in 2005 and a follow-on fund in 2008, each with funding of up to $5 million. The funds are being applied to support early stage commercialisation of innovative new technologies developed at Curtin. The University has invested in 10 companies and a number of unincorporated opportunities. The investee companies are rapidly growing and employ over 100 people in new economy jobs and generate revenues in excess of $10 million per annum.