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Greenway Innovative Energy gift establishes new UTA laboratory to accelerate gas-to-liquid fuel technology

Monday, February 29, 2016

Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office: 817-272-7075, Cell: 214-546-1082, hbooth@uta.edu

News Topics: energy, engineering, environment, research, science, sustainability

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A Fort Worth alternative energy company focused on converting natural gas for use as high-grade diesel and jet fuel has committed $750,000 to establish the F. Conrad Greer Lab at The University of Texas at Arlington.

Ray Wright, Fred MacDonnell, Brian Dennis

Pictured from left to right are Ray Wright, Greenway Innovative Energy CEO; Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department; and Brian Dennis, professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. Wright's company donated $750,000 to build the F. Conrad Green Lab at The University of Texas at Arlington.

The generous gift from Greenway Innovative Energy will allow Brian Dennis, a professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, and Fred MacDonnell, professor and chair in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, to conduct research focused on exponentially increasing fuel production through their innovative process.

The gift honors the legacy of F. Conrad Greer, an internationally recognized petroleum engineer and chemist who is known for his extensive work in the evaluation of oil and gas properties, reservoir engineering, the development of enhanced oil recovery methods and development of industrial catalyst.

Greer, who recently retired as Greenway’s chief executive officer, has been a longtime UTA supporter, said Raymond Wright, Greenway’s founder and current CEO. Wright said Greer is passionate about innovation in the development of alternative fuels and came up with the concept for Greenway as he watched U.S. natural gas exploration and production soar in the U.S. over the past two decades.

“The explosion in the supply of natural gas in the U.S. opened the door to pursue the exploration of changing natural gas to liquid diesel and jet fuel with an innovative approach,” Wright said. “The approach UTA has developed in conjunction with Greenway makes for the cleanest, most environmentally friendly method of converting supplies to ready-to-market fuel.

“Greenway is pleased to support these world-class researchers as we know that their work will have a lasting, global impact.”

The gift and expanded research focus in alternative fuels will advance the University’s efforts to address critical issues affecting the planet under the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact, especially under the guiding theme of Global Environmental Impact.

UTA President Vistasp M. Karbhari said, “We are most appreciative for the foresight Greenway Innovative Energy has shown in its support for furthering the critical work Dr. Dennis and Dr. MacDonnell are doing in the area of alternative fuels, which will ultimately allow the U.S. to maximize its natural resources and ensure energy independence. The integration of University research and industry expertise is a hallmark of enabling synergies to speed up innovation through impactful research.”

In a separate research program, MacDonnell and Dennis are leading a team of chemists and engineers who have proven that concentrated light, heat and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels. This simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels process could potentially help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make fuel. The team’s findings were published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Greenway Innovative Energy is a subsidiary of Fort Worth-based UMED Holdings Inc., which previously worked with the University on pioneering portable, small-scale units that can convert natural gas to liquids, such as diesel oil and jet fuel.

Wright said that the UTA/Greenway technology “makes for a more affordable process of producing a pure high-blend diesel fuel at a low cost per barrel. The process also eliminates the need to flare natural gas into the atmosphere and converts it to diesel fuel at the production site.”

Dennis and MacDonnell have improved gas-to-liquid technology in UTA’s Center for Renewable Energy and Science Technology, or CREST, lab. The Conrad Greer Lab will be adjacent to the CREST lab in Science Hall.

“We have a system in use that produces the high-grade fuel, but the new lab will allow us to produce larger quantities,” Dennis said. “It’s a big step in the drive to show the scalability of the technology.”

MacDonnell said the high-grade nature of the diesel fuel is important to energy companies that want to mix it with lower grade fuels that are plentiful.

“This high grade diesel would be sold to a refinery as an important blend feedstock,” MacDonnell said. “It’s a proven technology but is generally only practical at a huge scale. We are working to make it practical and affordable on the smaller scale that Greenway wants to make the process more portable so they can target stranded gas resources that are otherwise difficult to develop.”

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research 1 “highest research activity” institution of more than 50,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UTA as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

To learn more about how to support UTA research and other strategic priorities, visit https://giving.uta.edu or call the Office Of Development at 817-272-2584.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.