The world's largest plant to turn natural gas into cleaner-burning fuels and lubricants took a major step closer to production today when gas began flowing from a giant offshore field.
Pearl GTL will process around 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent over its lifetime from the world's largest single gas field, the North Field in the Arabian Gulf.
The gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, a joint development by Qatar Petroleum and Shell, will add almost 8% to Shell’s production worldwide, making it the company’s main engine for growth for 2012. It has a capacity of 260,000 barrels oil equivalent a day and is expected to ship its first product in 2011 and reach full production in 2012.
"We’re on the verge of starting up a project that will be a foundation for Shell’s future growth for decades to come," says Shell’s Country Chairman in Qatar, Andy Brown. "For Qatar it means another way to generate revenues from gas reserves, in addition to selling pipeline gas or liquefied natural gas. It diversifies the country’s revenue streams and provides long-term income."
The plant will produce cleaner-burning diesel and aviation fuel, oils for advanced lubricants, naphtha used to make plastics and paraffin for detergents. It will make enough diesel to fill over 160,000 cars a day and enough synthetic oil each year to make lubricants for more than 225 million cars. The products will reach customers in every major energy market through Shell’s global retail network.
The GTL plant will be supplied with natural gas from the offshore North Field via two underwater 30 in. pipelines to a gas separation plant onshore that extracts natural gas liquids: ethane for industrial processes, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for domestic heating and cooking and condensates as a feedstock for refineries. The separation process also removes contaminants like metals and sulphur.
Turning gas into liquid fuel
The pure gas, or methane, that remains will then flow to the GTL section of the plant, where it will be converted in a three-stage process into a range of gas-to-liquids products using Shell proprietary technology.