Volume of methane gas converted at Oryx GTL facility at Ras Laffan Industrial City9.35 mcm per day
Volume of GTL products produced at facility32,400 bpd
Qatar’s special blendOctober 23, 2015
Marjo Louw, country president of Sasol, talks to TOGY about the competitive advantages of gas-to-liquids (GTL) products and their commercial potential, and the impact of low oil prices on the sector. South African chemicals company Sasol produces around 32,400 barrels of GTL products per day at the Oryx GTL plant in Ras Laffan Industrial City through a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum.
What are the advantages of GTL products?
Many products can be made from natural gas, depending on the scale of operations and market needs. GTL fuels are generally more environmentally friendly than crude-derived products. One of the main products is GTL diesel, with virtually no sulphur content.
Although GTL diesel can be used as a neat fuel fungible with other diesels, it is mostly used by refiners to enhance the value of crude-based products by blending it to meet ultra-low-sulphur diesel requirements.
This type of diesel has a sulphur content of less than 10 parts per million, which complies with stringent European specifications. GTL diesel also has a higher energy value than regular diesel. GTL naphtha is also a highly paraffinic and sought after as a feedstock.
What is the role of GTL fuels in the world energy matrix, today and moving forward?
GTL diesel is mainly used in Europe, but some developments call for this type of product in the Far East. GTL diesel may also be moving into Middle Eastern markets.
For example, the Qatari and UAE governments are looking at cleaner fleets for moving equipment in their construction projects. They are evaluating CNG and GTL diesel as possibilities to achieve these goals.
While many countries are adopting cleaner and better quality fuels, the supply of GTL fuel is currently too small to have a significant environmental impact at the global level. However, GTL products are being distributed in a number of promising markets thereby creating an ideal platform for fuel diversification and the added value of gas feedstock.
What impact do depressed oil prices have on the GTL industry in Qatar and abroad?
Qatar has a dominant market position on low-temperature gas conversion technology. Despite dramatic changes in the worldwide energy landscape, Qatar’s position has held strong as the global industry centre for GTL.
This is likely to continue in the future, due to favourable conditions, such as the availability of large volumes of affordable quality feedstock, developed energy infrastructure and Qatar’s location, which enables the country to serve customers at a global level.
There is also room for expansion and diversification of the domestic industry. The continued volatility in global energy prices is often viewed as a primary challenge to growth. Uncertainty makes investment decisions difficult and timing more critical as capital expenditures required for energy and chemicals facilities must be planned well in advance.
All sectors in the oil and gas industry have been affected, and operators need to re-evaluate costs, operations and technology options. However, despite the fall in energy prices, our business in Qatar remains profitable.
What technological developments can help further develop the sector?
There are a number of options to increase value, but from a technology and research perspective, work on reactor design and new generation catalysts are probably the most influential technological developments.
Sasol has been developing reactor technology in order to raise production capacity using equipment at the same scale. At the Oryx GTL plant, each reactor can produce 16,000-17,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). Newly planned facilities contain reactors of the same size that can produce 24,000 bpd, and an enhanced version is already envisioned that can produce 30,000 bpd.
How does the advanced stage of the local GTL sector benefit Qatar?
Production is only one element of the GTL market’s contribution to the economy. Through increased labourer skills, technology transfer and partnerships, the impact of GTL goes far beyond revenue from product sales.
Added-value industries and services have cropped up around the GTL fuels sector, in addition to promising partnerships with academic institutions. For example, Sasol has a partnership with Qatar University’s Gas Processing Center to advance research in the area of carbon dioxide recovery from flue gas. Projects such as this contribute to the transition towards a knowledge-based economy that benefits the entire hydrocarbons industry.
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