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C&EN is reporting a newly developed process from Brigham Young University that allows direct reaction of alkanes (methane, ethane, propane) to make alcohols.

http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i11/Natural-Gas-Upgrade.html

The technology uses lead or thallium trifluoroacetic acid complexes to produce oxygenate triflate esters at temps of abt 180C, much lower than the 900C usually required.

This is an interesting low energy alternative to synthesis gas methods to methanol and offers a less complex process than cracking to olefins like ethylene and then hydration to make ethanol.

Celanese had a direct oxidation of propane process that made a mix of products and was not very successful. I think it has been shut down. Article says that previous processes used catalysts that made radicals which broke carbon chains. The current process does not form radicals and is apparently milder and more selective.

Work to develop the process is underway with partners.
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