While the scientists from the Brigham Young University and Scripps Research Institute published their findings in the latest edition of Science magazine, Reuters reported that more research was required and flagged that a pilot plant could be four years away.
The process takes advantage of cheap "main group" metals such as thallium and lead to dramatically lower the temperatures required for key chemical reactions.
"We uncovered a whole new class of inexpensive metals that allows us to process methane and the other alkanes contained in natural gas, ethane and propane, at about 180 degrees centigrade or lower, instead of the more than 500C used in current processes," SRI professor and study leader Roy Periana said.
"This creates the potential to produce fuels and chemicals at an extraordinarily lower cost."
Regarding the hunt for suitable inexpensive metals for the process, SRI said one of the materials could be made from commonly available lead dioxide.
"The reaction of alkanes with this class of materials we've identified is novel," Periana said.
"They can react with methane, ethane as well as propane at lower temperatures with extraordinary selectivity - and produce the corresponding alcohols as the only the desired products.
"These products are all major commodity chemicals and are also ideal inexpensive sources for fuels and plastics."
The US Department of Energy-supported researchers consequently believe the GTL technology may allow the glut of US gas to be used as an alternative resource for fuel and chemical production.
Reuters said the method cut out an entire step of the fuel production process.
"Ordinarily the three main parts of raw natural gas - methane, ethane and propane - are separated before they are turned into fuels or other useful chemicals," the newswire reported.