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Experts See Cheaper, Easier Way To Turn Natural Gas Into Fuels

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WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - U.S. scientists said on Thursday they have devised a potentially easier, cheaper and cleaner way to turn natural gas into usable fuels and chemicals - a discovery which could lead to natural gas products displacing oil products in the future.

The process would be less complex than conventional methods to turn natural gas into liquid products and it uses much lower heat and inexpensive materials to get the job done, they said.

Almost anything - fuel or chemical - that can be made from petroleum also can be made from natural gas, but it is not done today because the cost of converting natural gas into those materials is much higher, the researchers said.

"Current technologies to convert natural gas into fuels or commodity chemicals are too expensive to compete with products generated from petroleum," said Roy Periana, director of the Scripps Energy and Materials Center at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida who led the study published in the journal Science.

The finding comes as natural gas production soars in the United States thanks to methods like hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and horizontal drilling. TheUnited States stands as the world's No. 1 natural gas producer, topping evenRussia.

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