Advanced Low Temperature Emissions Control Technology for MTBE Destruction

EPA Contract Number: 68D03045
Title: Advanced Low Temperature Emissions Control Technology for MTBE Destruction
Investigators: Kittrell, J. R.
Small Business: KSE Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: May 1, 2003 through April 30, 2005
Project Amount: $225,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2002) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , SBIR - Waste , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


There is an immediate and growing need for technology to remediate groundwater and soils contaminated with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as well as with associated benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) compounds. Gasoline containing 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 remediate MTBE-contaminated groundwater satisfactorily.

In the Phase I research project, KSE, Inc., established the technical feasibility of a novel technology to remediate MTBE-contaminated groundwater and soils. One major innovation provides a novel technology to completely destroy MTBE and BTEX in air from groundwater strippers or soil vapor extraction. Extremely low temperature catalytic oxidation has been achieved with a new class of catalysts designed specifically for these compounds. Operating temperatures of 30-80°C were achieved. The new catalyst activity is orders of magnitude greater than that of the traditional platinum alumina catalyst. The low temperature operation allows use of advanced design materials to further lower pollution control costs to 5-15 percent of those of conventional methods. With the commercialization of this new class of catalysts, an inexpensive, compact, and effective technique will be available for cleaning up groundwater and soils 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 will be commercialized in the Phase II research project. The project involves catalyst optimization and kinetic studies offering both mechanistic insight and design procedures. Large-scale prototype operation will be undertaken to demonstrate both the catalyst performance and such materials of construction as fiberglass-reinforced plastic, made possible by the low temperature catalyst operation. A competitive cost analysis of the technology relative to other alternatives will be performed for MTBE remediation. It is anticipated that a cost-effective technology will be developed for remediation of MTBE-contaminated groundwater that is capable of rapid deployment.

The commercial applications for the concept will be for 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, help protect the Nation's drinking water supply, and improve economic competitiveness.

Supplemental Keywords:

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

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

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