Whereas the price of natural gas tends on world level to be aligned on the price of oil, the discovery in the United States of great amounts of shale gas caused in this country a fall of the price of gas.
It would be interesting to benefit from this price difference by using natural gas as petrochemical source in replacement of oil. One of the ways to convert natural gas, methane thus, in petrochemical source is pyrolysis at 1200°C. This pyrolysis at high temperature produces ethylene with a good output (1) (2). Ethylene, much more reactive than methane, is already an important source of petrochemical industry. As today the ethylene results from oil, the pyrolysis of methane would constitute an economic alternative for its production.
The parabolic mirrors used as concentrators of solar energy are able to reach the temperature necessary to the pyrolysis of methane. The use of solar energy to carry out the conversion of methane into ethylene would be an useful operation for the development of solar energy. Currently parabolic concentrator technology is confined in the production of electrical energy, area where it is confronted with the competition of coal, gas and now photovoltaic since the dramatic fall of silicium cost. The use of solar parabolic concentrator technology in a petrochemical process would make it quickly profitable. The financial investment used for the production of concentrators could be recovered in a few years by the sale of ethylene.
(1) Method for direct methane pyrolysis, Genkin Vladimir Naumovich, Genkin Mikhail Vladimirovich, Tynnikov Jury Georgievich, http://www.wipo.int/patentscope/search/en/WO2001070656
(2) Production of Olefins and Higher Hydrocarbons by Thermal Coupling of Methane, J. Weill, F. Chevron, C. Raimbault, R. Genier and G. Renesme, http://ogst.ifpenergiesnouvelles.fr/index....mid=129&lang=fr