The plant is designed to produce 34,000 barrels per day of liquid hydrocarbons (primarily synthetic diesel) from about 330-million cubic feet per day of natural gas from Qatar’s North Field in the Persian Gulf.
As to be expected with a facility of this size and complexity, the plant has experienced start-up operational challenges, most of these limited to individual pieces of equipment. The failure of the steam super heater in the utility section, reported on during the second half of 2006, has been the most significant to date. This problem has since been successfully resolved.
Operating rates are currently also limited to levels lower than planned. The biggest challenge preventing ramp-up to the planned production rate is a higher than the design level of fine material that is produced in the process and which then has to be handled downstream of the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) units. This fine material is constraining the overall throughput of the downstream units. A number of possible causes for this have been identified and plans are in place to eliminate or remediate these over the coming months. The installation of additional downstream equipment as a back-up solution to increase throughput has already been initiated and this will be available for implementation towards the middle of 2008.
Sasol, which has a 49% shareholding in the Oryx GTL project along with Qatar Petroleum, will provide an update on Oryx’s performance “at an appropriate time,” but no later than Sasol’s year end results presentation in September 2007.
We are very pleased that the Oryx start-up has, despite these challenges, demonstrated the potential of the world’s largest gas-to-liquids facility and that the process produces world-class products. The remaining technical challenges will be resolved as speedily as possible so that full production can be achieved.—Lean Strauss, Group General Manager of Sasol International Energy business