Syntroleum will begin testing the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) catalyst used in its gas-to-liquids (GTL) process with coal-derived syngas produced at an established gasification facility.
The new testing program is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Syntroleum FT-410 cobalt catalyst with proven coal-derived syngas clean-up and treatment processes for use in a coal-to-liquids (CTL) application. Syngas, which consists of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is the building block for many chemical processes including FT synthetic fuels.
Syntroleum has been running a 70 barrel per day GTL demonstration facility at the Port of Catoosa near Tulsa, Okla. for two years.
This [CTL] testing program is an important step for Syntroleum in demonstrating that our proven natural gas-to-liquids technology is also applicable to coal-to-liquids as well. We see this as an opportunity to develop our position toward participation in future coal-to-liquids plants.—Ken Roberts, senior vice president of business development
The testing protocol will include two bench-scale FT reactors and gas sampling connections to the clean syngas production flow. The testing program is planned to begin in January and run for approximately six months. Syntroleum specialists will work with the personnel from the gasification company in this program funded by Syntroleum.
Unlike other GTL technologies, the Syntroleum process uses air, rather than pure oxygen. This eliminates the need for an oxygen plant attached to the GTL facility, enabling a more compact facility. Syntroleum has developed plans for a GTL barge that can economically take the processing capability to stranded gas fields. (Earlier post.)
In an effort to test out the potential for stranded gas processing using the GTL barge, Syntroleum had organized a partnership to develop an offshore field in Nigeria. The Aje-3 appraisal drilling was intended to lay the foundation for a stream of oil and natural gas production that would provide the first test for the Gas-to-Liquids Barge came up dry earlier this year however. (Earlier post.)
In Syntroleum’s business model for the Aje project, developing the oil from the field would provide some of the funding for the construction of the production-grade GTL barge—about a US$400-million proposition. Ongoing production of the oil plus the processing of the natural gas into liquid fuels would then combine into a healthy revenue stream.
The company also just announced it is taking a 40% position in another Nigerian development, the Ajapa Field, in pursuit of the same strategy.
In its quarterly results conference call in July, Syntroleum management indicated that there is a serious increase in the interest and in the number of proposals being brought to it on CTL projects (more than 10 so far this year, from the US, Australia and China). Accordingly, Syntroleum said then that it viewed CTL as an added opportunity, and one that it will investigate, but not at the expense of its primary focus on GTL. (Earlier post.)
One of the key areas for investigation is the various gasification technologies that would be required to gasify the coal—and also the processes for the associated clean-up of the gas to ensure its compatibility with the catalyst—hence the new CTL testing program.
With the rapid increase in interest in CTL in the US, and with the financial incentives provided by the Energy Act of 2005, CTL may be becoming more than an “added opportunity” for Syntroleum.
Coal-to-liquids technology has the potential of providing a tremendous source of ultra-clean fuels from abundant coal reserves in the United States and other regions of the world. The U.S. has the world’s largest estimated recoverable coal reserves equaling over 268 billion tons. If only 5 percent of this coal were converted to FT liquids, it would be equivalent to the entire oil reserves currently held by the U.S.
Our 20-year history in gas-to-liquids is a foundation for successful transition into coal-to-liquids in the coming years.—Ken Roberts