Advanced Low-Temperature Emissions Control Technology for MTBE Destruction

EPA Contract Number: 68D02029
Title: Advanced Low-Temperature Emissions Control Technology for MTBE Destruction
Investigators: Kittrell, J. R.
Small Business: KSE Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: April 1, 2002 through September 1, 2002
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Waste , Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


There is an immediate and growing need for technology to remediate groundwater and sites contaminated with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and with possible benzene/toluene/xylene (BTX) compounds. Gasoline that contains MTBE has leaked into groundwater, presenting both health risks and objectionable odor and taste in lakes, aquifers, and urban wells in 49 states. Due to the specific physical and chemical properties of MTBE, conventional technologies cannot satisfactorily remediate MTBE-contaminated groundwater.

The proposed research project will establish the technical and economic feasibility of a novel technology to remediate MTBE-contaminated groundwater. An air stripper is used to strip MTBE from the water, producing a high flow-rate air stream with dilute MTBE concentrations. In urban areas, a low-profile stripper can be employed. A novel technology will be developed to completely destroy the resulting MTBE and BTX in air, using extremely low-temperature catalytic oxidation with a new class of catalysts designed specifically for these compounds. Operating temperatures below 100°C already have been achieved with this new class of catalysts, and temperatures of 20-50°C appear achievable. With success in this new class of catalysts, an inexpensive, compact, effective technique will be available for cleaning up groundwater and sites contaminated by fuel oxygenates, avoiding the cost and size of traditional high-temperature catalytic oxidizers, with their attendant heat exchangers and piping systems.

This new class of catalysts utilizes a noble metal reducible oxide (NMRO) catalytic composition that has been adapted from laser applications. Preliminary tests on this new class of catalysts show that the destruction efficiency for MTBE or MTBE-BTX mixtures is dramatically higher than traditional platinum volatile organic compound (VOC) oxidation catalysts. This research program will include catalyst composition studies to tailor a superior catalyst for this application, reactor studies of the destruction efficacy of this NMRO class of catalysts, and a competitive cost analysis of the technology relative to other alternatives for MTBE remediation. It is anticipated that a cost-effective technology will be developed for the remediation of MTBE-contaminated groundwater that is capable of rapid deployment.

The commercial applications of KSE, Inc.'s concept will be for the efficient remediation of groundwater and sites contaminated by MTBE without the associated air emissions or large, costly equipment installations in urban sites. It should be of value to both the private and government sectors, reduce the cost of remediating groundwater contaminated by MTBE, and help protect the Nation's drinking water supply and improve economic competitiveness.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, benzene, toluene, xylene, emissions, air stripper, methyl tertiary, butyl ether, MTBE, groundwater, catalytic oxidation, noble metal reducible oxide, platinum., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Waste, Physics, Chemistry, Contaminant Candidate List, chemical mixtures, Hazardous Waste, EPCRA, Groundwater remediation, Hazardous, air stripper, gasoline, Methyl tert butyl ether, MTBE, cleanup, catalysts, BTEX, gasoline leaks, emissions control technology, spills, oxygenates, benzene, oil spills, environmental transport and fate, environmental chemistry, ground water, groundwater

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Advanced Low Temperature Emissions Control Technology for MTBE Destruction  | Final Report