Thursday, April 05, 2012

Gas to Liquids News

Shell is considering building a huge gas to liquids (GTL) plant in Louisiana, comparable to the size of its Pearl Qatar GTL plant. The new plant would reportedly cost in excess of $10 billion.
European oil giant Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (RDS-A, RDSA.L, RDSB.L, RDS-B) is exploring the possibility of building a plant in Louisiana that will convert natural gas into diesel fuel, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The plant, which would cost more than $10 billion, would reportedly be similar in size to Shell's Pearl gas-to-liquids or GTL facility in the Qatar. The Pearl facility turns natural gas into enough diesel to fill more than 160,000 cars per day.

According to the WSJ report, Shell initially considered locating the facility in Texas and Louisiana, but opted for the latter as the state offered better incentives. Shell may, however, take up to two years to develop construction and engineering plans to see if the project is economically viable.

The boom in natural gas production from shale formations in North America has resulted in lower natural gas prices even as oil prices are rising. This has prompted energy companies to look at turning natural gas into liquid fuels that is seen as financially appealing. _NASDAQ (WSJ)
SASOL also wants to build a large GTL plant in Louisiana, to take advantage of the region's vast gas reserves.

Carbon Sciences -- designer of scalable GTL plants -- announced a significant advance in its project to use CO2 as a feedstock in its "dry reforming GTL process."
Carbon Sciences Inc. CABN -3.45% , the developer of a breakthrough technology to make transportation fuels and other valuable products from natural gas, today announced the successful test of a new version of its natural gas dry reforming catalyst that can process high CO2 content natural gas at high efficiency, resulting in significant economic and environmental benefits. The company's management believes that this breakthrough catalyst may help accelerate the growth of the emerging natural gas to liquid fuels industry.

While all natural gas fields contain CO2, production is economically viable only when the CO2 is less than 10% of the total volume. At that level, the CO2 is removed and typically released into the atmosphere. Where the CO2 content is higher, the removal process is prohibitively expensive, making those fields economically stranded.

Byron Elton, Carbon Sciences CEO, commented, "According to the U. S. Geological Survey, there are many gas fields with CO2 concentrations ranging from 10% to 99% within the continental U.S., particular in Texas, the Rocky Mountains, and the Gulf Coast. We believe our catalyst will make these high CO2 gas fields economically viable, and encourage the pooling of multiple gas fields into much larger natural gas steams with high CO2 content. Additionally, CO2 captured from sources such as power plants can be added to low CO2 content natural gas and used to cost-effectively produce large quantities of clean and green liquid transportation fuels and industrial chemicals." _Marketwatch
We will want to watch Carbon Science's progress in developing better catalysts for its "dry reforming GTL" process. It isn't easy or cheap to reduce CO2 in order to build medium to long-chain hydrocarbons. But there would certainly be a demand for the process if it could be made affordable and capable of high volume production.

Carbon Science's small scale GTL systems should be suitable for use in the offshore environment and at stranded gas wells. Several other companies are competing for that niche as well, so expect to hear more about scalable GTL soon.

Australia's Linc Energy refers to its "syngas to diesel" process as "GTL." Linc plans to expand its operation to take advantage of opportunities in North America.

Biomass, coal, natural gas, and more can be used as starting points for F-T synthesis of diesel from syngas. But expect alternative approaches to GTL, CTL, BTL etc. as better catalysts, materials, and processes are developed.



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