Cruellas Labella, Aitor (PhD)

European Project: MEMERE

Title: Oxidative coupling of methane in a novel catalytic membrane reactor

 Brief description of the project

 Nowadays the reserves of natural gas are becoming cheaper than those of liquid petroleum and it is supposed that this trend will continue in the next years. Because of that, the production of high-valued hydrocarbons using natural gas as raw material can be a feasible alternative to the conventional cracking of oil.

Thus, the Oxidative Coupling of Methane (OCM) is a promising direct route to convert methane into ethylene and can become competitive compared with the indirect one, the Fischer-Tropsch process.

This process has been studied since the 80’s, but still the conversion of methane and the selectivity to hydrocarbons have to be improved to do this technique economically viable for the industry.

 For all these reasons, a European project called MEMERE (Methane activation via integrated membrane reactors has started in October). In this project, a novel membrane catalytic reactor prototype for the production of ethylene via the Oxidative Coupling of Methane will be developed. During the project, different types of catalytic reactors will be tested in order to select the most efficient one. The project will be focus on the air separation through novel MIEC membranes integrated within a reactor operated at high temperature for OCM allowing integration of different process steps in a single multifunctional unit. The MIEC membranes will be used in order to separate the oxygen from the air, permitting the entrance of almost pure oxygen in the reactor and reducing the process costs because of the removal of the oxygen separation unit needed in conventional plants. Another advantage of the membrane reactor will be that the oxygen will be supplied by the membrane in a distributed fashion along the reactor, maintaining a low oxygen partial pressure in all the reactor and provoking an increase in the products yield.

If all these challenges can be achieved and the problems related with the integration of the membrane within the reactor and its interaction with the catalyst are solved, it is expected that significantly higher yields can be achieved in comparison with the conventional reactor technologies, combined with an improved energy efficiency.

Results and Objectives

The results of this project will contribute to the competitiveness of the European process industry in a field (ethylene production) that is an important part of the chemical sector. 


 1.    Development of a novel membrane catalytic reactor for the Oxidative Coupling of Methane.

2.    Selection of the suitable membrane for the novel reactor after the performing of several tests.

3.    Development of a novel method for sealing MIEC membranes.

4.    Selection of the suitable catalyst for the novel reactor after the performing of several tests.

5.    Development of a new phenomenological model which predicts experimental results.