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Using Microwaves To Make Money From Pollution


Developments to Watch

USING MICROWAVES TO MAKE MONEY FROM POLLUTION

Russian technology may help the U.S. oil and gas industries overcome an environmental headache--and save hundreds of millions of dollars. Russia's Kurchatov Institute in Moscow has developed a way to use low-energy microwaves to break down hydrogen sulfide, a noxious gas that is a waste product of refining and a contaminant in natural gas. The process yields sulfur, which can be recovered and sold, and hydrogen gas, which can be used as a fuel. Now, oil refiners and gas producers can recover sulfur, but there's no technology yet to recover the hydrogen.

Through a new joint research venture, American scientists will help the Russians commercialize the process. The U.S. team consists of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, Wavemat Inc., a Plymouth (Mich.) microwave equipment manufacturer, and Acid Rain Control Inc., a Detroit startup. Argonne scientist John Harkness estimates that if every U.S. refinery used the process, the U.S. would save the equivalent of 70 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year.EDITED BY WILLIAM D. MARBACH


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