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WVU chemical engineering researcher earns new investigator award

Portrait of Fernando Lima

Fernando Lima.

West Virginia University engineering professor has been awarded $110,000 from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund to improve natural gas utilization processes.


Fernando Lima, assistant professor of chemical engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, received the two-year grant from the fund’s Doctoral New Investigator program.

Lima will study the design of membrane reactors, a device for chemical reactions and gas separations, for the direct methane aromatization conversion to chemicals and fuels. Methane aromatization is a chemical reaction that creates hydrogen and benzene, important elements in producing complex chemicals and fuels.

“By using this unique approach to design natural gas utilization processes, we can better determine whether current and upcoming utilization processes are feasible from both technological and economical perspectives,” said Lima. “In a world where companies are competing for new technologies with narrow margins, it is critical to find ways to improve the use of natural gas.”

Lima’s research is particularly important in West Virginia and the Appalachian region because of the Marcellus Shale boom.

“Once we develop the approaches for optimally designing and intensifying the natural gas conversion process, we may be able to reduce costs and minimize the environmental impact of utilizing Marcellus Shale gas in the region.”

Lima’s research aligns with the recently formed Shale Gas Center at WVU, which seeks to develop technologies to serve the natural gas industry.

“With this research, we expect to accelerate the use of emerging technologies for the efficient, economic and sustainable utilization of natural gas and shale gas available in the area and around the country,” said Lima. “We want to put WVU at the forefront of responsible and feasible gas utilization.”



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