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My question: could it be practical, on an industrial scale, to take a mixture of alkanes (mostly ethane, propane, and butane) convert them to their alcohol forms, send them through a 300-mile pipe, and convert them back to their source alkanes? (They would not have to be handled as a mixture—they could be separated at the source and piped separately.)

I ask this because a company is building a pipeline through my area that is intended to carry alkanes in liquid form (under 1500 psi of pressure, so that they stay liquid). These are known in the industry as “natural gas liquids”. It looks like this could be a very dangerous pipeline. An engineer friend suggested the alcohol conversion strategy. Even if it were a lot more expensive, it would be far less dangerous and that might justify the cost. Any thoughts?

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closed as too broad by Mithoron, Todd Minehardt, Wildcat, airhuff, Buttonwood Jul 4 '17 at 23:02

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ If I were a chemist, I'm sure I could make this question more specific. As a lay person who took chemistry in college decades ago, I've made it as specific as I know how. I think what you're essentially telling me is that this is not a site for people like me. $\endgroup$ – George Alexander Jul 4 '17 at 23:55
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That's not viable at all.

  1. There's no good reaction to go from alkanes to alcohols. This would be incredible expensive to do, produces a lot of waste and is potentially very dangerous too.

  2. There's no good reaction to convert alcohols back to alkanes. It would be again very expensive. And you would convert more expensive products into less expensive ones, which isn't a very good thing to do.

  3. We know how to handle liquefied petroleum gas very well, it's not that dangerous. There are also hundreds of thousands of km of such pipelines [1] already in use. The safety aspect definitely doesn't justify the cost, danger, waste, ressources and energy needed to convert the product forth and back again.

[1] http://www.j-pipe-eng.com/abstract.cfm?cat_no=2145s

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  • $\begingroup$ I had once hypothesized about a radical reaction to synthesize alcohols from alkanes in this question, although I didn't get an answer supporting or opposing my hypothesis yet. $\endgroup$ – Pritt says Reinstate Monica Jul 5 '17 at 15:13
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It's doable, but it may not be practical from an economical standpoint. You must consider that two conversion plants must be built at both ends of the pipeline, with all their operational costs, etc. That won't simply be "a lot more expensive"; it would certainly kill the business by zeroing the profits obtained from selling the hydrocarbons.

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