Shale gas exploration generates methane, mostly used as fuel, and natural gas liquids (NGLs), mainly used as chemical feedstocks. These NGLs are typically extracted using expensive turbo-expansion and cryogenic distillation unit operations and an alternative modular approach using a solid-state electrochemical reactor configuration is proposed. This electrochemical approach offers advantages over other process intensification techniques due to its modularity and potential delivery of an electric by-product. In this study, a solid oxide cell setup using rare-earth and alkali-earth based perovskites – LaFeO3 and SrFeO3 – was demonstrated for thermally efficient dehydrogenation of NGLs to generate olefins for downstream chemical production. This demonstration showed that ethane conversion via oxidative dehydrogenation (up to 0.1 mmol/min/cm2 of ethylene) was significant in comparison to thermal cracking (up to 0.01 mmol/min/cm2 of ethylene) under the conditions tested and illustrates the viability of this approach to process intensification. Furthermore, modifications to the current cell configuration are needed before the electric by-product can be generated.
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