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Olusola Johnson

University of South Florida, PhD
Evergreen Scholar, 2022 

Tandem Catalytic Conversion of Biogas to Liquid Fuel 

Project Description:
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an average US resident generates and throws away 4.9 lbs of solid waste per day (approximately 292 million tons in 2018). Only onethird of these items (which include packaging, food, yard trimmings, furniture, appliances, and electronics) are recycled, and more than 50% of the waste generated ends up in landfills. In landfills, the organic materials in the waste undergo a natural process of decomposition into landfill gas (LFG).  

LFG is composed of methane (the primary component of natural gas) and carbon dioxide, which are two potent greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. While biogas (from landfills or wastewater treatment facilities) is usually flared or used for electricity production, the energy content is either wasted or converted to low value commodities (heat and/or power). As an example, in the US, hydrocarbon transportation fuels are worth 4 times as much as electricity on an equivalent energy basis. In other words, there is a high value placed on energy storage in the form of energy-dense hydrocarbons that can be used as drop-in fuels. Biogas is currently an under-utilized energy source and has the potential to supply 10% of the US diesel market. 

 The conversion of LFG to high value drop-in biofuel is an enormous challenge that will address three of the most pressing environmental and technological issues: waste reduction, the elimination of greenhouse gases, and boosting renewable energy production. Olusola’s project aims at the development of a new pathway for biofuel production- a tandem catalytic process which converts LFG into liquid hydrocarbon fuels, specifically aimed toward diesel-range products, in a single reactor system. His project will allow the economics to become viable for lowcost biogas-to-liquid technologies with distributed methane sources (such as biogas from digesters or gasifiers, stranded gas, and landfill gas). The process will also result in a substantial (>90%) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to petroleum derived products. 

Olusola is a PhD student in Chemical Engineering at the University of South Florida. Prior to joining USF, he obtained his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Benin (2012-2017) in Nigeria. He also earned his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from USF in 2020. His masters thesis work focused on carbon emission capture from landfill gas and upgrading it into renewable natural gas. Upon graduation, Olusola continued his research in waste-toenergy technologies. He is currently studying the direct catalytic conversion of biogas into liquid fuel and value-added chemicals. Olusola is very passionate about the environment and creating a sustainable energy and chemical economy.