Creating Value from Flare Gas

December 19, 2014

By Dylan Brown

After a semester of brainstorming problems and sharing potential solutions to issues related to energy and the environment, we have formed a group that wants to research ways to use methanotrophic bacteria to process harmful flare gas and produce a valuable byproduct.

With 150B cubic meters burned each each year in the US, flare gas is both harmful to the environment and a wasted resource. We will conduct business, market, and environmental analyses in order to see if marginal mitigation of flare gas in the Bakken oil fields could safely produce a valuable commodity.

We hope to create an environment in which specific methane-consuming bacteria can thrive to be harvested for a valuable byproduct. We have explored byproducts such as formaldehyde, which can be sold for close to $300 per metric ton. Formaldehyde can be used in wood adhesives, bacteria disinfectants, photographic development, and has its largest markets in North East Asia and Europe. However, the toxicity of formaldehyde may inhibit cell growth and may necessitate another viable option such as bioplastics.

We look forward to researching alongside faculty experts to understand the inherent biological principles as well as developing a prototype to grow these bacteria.