22 June 2011
Qatar Petroleum and Shell announced earlier this month that the Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, located in Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar, has sold its first commercial shipment of GTL gasoil. The sale marks the start of production of GTL products when the State of Qatar and Shell, the operator of the Pearl GTL plant, begin to receive revenue from the project. Over the coming months, production will ramp up from the first production train of the Pearl GTL project. The second train is expected to start up before the end of 2011. The plant is expected to reach full production capacity by the middle of 2012.
Pearl GTL—one of the largest plants ever built in the energy industry—will add almost 8% to Shell’s worldwide production. The plant utilizes gas from the North Field which stretches from Qatar’s coast and contains more than 900 trillion cubic feet of gas—equivalent to 150 billion barrels of oil or over 10% of worldwide gas resources.
Once fully operational, Pearl GTL is expected to produce 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day, which will be processed to deliver an expected 120,000 barrels per day of condensate, LPG and ethane and an expected 140,000 barrels per day of GTL products. The last figure includes 50,000 barrels per day of GTL gasoil—a clean-burning diesel-type automotive fuel. Most of the GTL gasoil will be used as a high quality blend component with conventional oil-based diesel and supplied through the existing diesel distribution system across the world.
The Pearl GTL project was launched in July 2006 and the first stone was laid in February 2007. At the peak of construction at Pearl GTL, the project employed 52,000 workers. By the end of 2010, major construction was complete. In March 2011, gas began flowing from wells 60 kilometers offshore. Then the gas processing plant began producing condensate, LPG and sulfur and four of the world’s largest air separation units began producing oxygen. The GTL plant, brought into production in May, converts the gas and oxygen to GTL wax. In the last step of the process, the waxes are cracked and distilled into finished GTL products.
Pearl GTL is expected to produce a number of high quality GTL products for sale in oil product markets around the world: GTL kerosene for blending into a clean burning aviation fuel; GTL gasoil; GTL base oils for premium lubricants; GTL normal paraffin for detergents; and GTL naphtha, a high-paraffin feedstock for the petrochemical industry.