Green boost for Qatar’s petrochemicalsMay 26, 2015
Shizuka Ikawa, managing director of Chiyoda Almana Engineering, discusses brownfield works for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors in Qatar, the environmental concerns that drive these works, and the role of engineering companies in reducing gas flaring. Chiyoda Corporation, Chiyoda Almana’s parent company, is a world leader in LNG process technology and built 12 of Qatar’s 14 LNG trains.
Why have EPC activities in Qatar’s oil and gas industry been moving towards more brownfield works?
The market for EPC works in Qatar’s oil and gas industry has been reasonably active, although it is now slowing with lower oil prices. National and international oil companies aim at reducing their costs to become more efficient and more competitive. As a result, the market has become more brownfield-oriented, and we mainly see maintenance and upgrade works at existing facilities rather than capital-intensive and large-scale greenfield projects. EPC contractors concentrate on regular plant shutdowns and other maintenance works, including Qatar’s LNG trains.
Several upgrade and extension projects are also expected in existing plants. I think that in the future, Qatar may have plans to use available feedstock in order to diversify production at existing petrochemicals facilities. Now that the entire LNG value chain has been developed, Qatar might move towards further downstream developments in the petrochemicals industry to extract more value from produced natural gas. Petrochemicals projects normally take a while to put together, with long feasibility and front-end engineering and design studies.
Are environmental regulations driving further plant modifications at existing facilities?
Both the Ministry of Energy and Industry, and the Ministry of Environment in Qatar have ambitious targets. The new environmental regulations entail various engineering studies and works for EPC contractors to modify the structures and processes of existing plants. Operators and contractors must ensure that they follow these new requirements for both new and existing facilities.
In October 2013, both ministries launched an initiative to achieve zero liquid discharge of wastewater at the country’s energy and industrial plants. This programme requires that the water processed in Qatar’s oil and gas industry must be treated and reused in industrial processes instead of being discharged into the sea.
Water management solutions and technologies allow for operations efficiency, resources saving, and reduction of the environmental impact of industrial activities. In order to reach these goals and contribute to Qatar’s sustainable development, we provide wastewater treatment-related engineering and project management services to Qatar’s industries.
What steps are being taken to reduce flaring in Qatar?
Flaring usually occurs if a plant production flow is not optimised during normal operations, after shutdowns or in the event of a breakdown. Qatar aims to reduce gas flaring to a minimum to avoid natural gas waste and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Gas plants therefore have to be modified and upgraded accordingly so the gas can be recovered rather than being flared.
Oil and gas operators in Qatar have put a lot of effort into minimising flaring during normal plant operations, in accordance with the directives of Ras Laffan Industrial City. The first plant modifications started around 1998, and changes in plant designs have been implemented since then in order to keep flaring at a minimum during normal operations.
However, large volumes of flaring usually occur for a couple of weeks during plant start-ups and after shutdowns. To meet Qatar’s objectives for flare reduction by 2017, it is essential to minimise flaring during these start-up periods.
How can EPC contractors contribute to flaring-reduction efforts?
We are working with oil and gas operators in Qatar on a number of solutions directed towards this goal. For EPC contractors, this type of work is more about clever engineering than advanced technology. We need to look at the best ways to interconnect plants and find the right balance for gas flows between facilities. This requires three-dimensional designs of the plants and various types of dynamic simulations to improve gas flows on a regular basis and after shutdowns, and anticipation of what can be done in the event of a breakdown.