|Oryx GTL under construction. The cylindrical towers are the reactors. Click to enlarge.|
Sasol Chevron, the joint venture between Chevron Corporation and South African petrochemical company Sasol Limited, has launched a promotional stunt to showcase its GTL (gas-to-liquid) diesel fuel technology. The Sasol Chevron GTL Challenge will send a team of twelve men and women traveling from Sasolburg, South Africa to Qatar to signal the inauguration of the Oryx GTL plant in Qatar.
The team has been challenged by Sasol Chevron to complete the 11,000-km (6,837-mile) journey in 46 days, arriving in Doha, Qatar by 5 June for the official opening on 6 June of the US$950 million Oryx GTL production facility—the first commercial-scale GTL plant outside South Africa.
Throughout this challenging trip, we will be demonstrating the fuel’s capabilities and performance under some of the world’s toughest road conditions—the same fuel that may be used in existing diesel engines. We’re excited about the future of GTL.—John Gass, President of Chevron Global Gas and Sasol Chevron Chairman of the Board
One of the team’s five vehicles, a Toyota Hilux Raider, will be fueled from start to finish with GTL diesel fuel from Sasol’s plant in Sasolburg. The GTL fuel burns cleaner than conventional diesel and provides better performance.
A joint venture between the state-owned petroleum company Qatar Petroleum (51%) and Sasol (49%), Oryx GTL in Qatar is the first low-temperature Fischer-Tropsch GTL plant outside South Africa dedicated to the production of new generation GTL diesel.
The plant will use Sasol’s proprietary Slurry Phase Distillate process (SPD) which combines three commercial technologies: autothermal reforming for the production of synthesis gas from natural gas; slurry-phase Fischer-Tropsch synthesis for the conversion of the syngas to a waxy syncrude, and isocracking technology to upgrade the syncrude into liquid fuels. London-based Sasol Chevron will market the GTL diesel worldwide later this year.
|Sasol Slurry Phase Distillate (SPD) Process. Click to enlarge.|
The ultra-low sulfur and low aromatics content of GTL makes it a good fit for tighter environmental controls and increased diesel consumption in many parts of the world. In markets such as the US, Europe, Japan and Australia, the maximum permissible sulfur content in diesel has plummeted from 5,000 parts per million (ppm) 15 years ago to as little as 10 ppm today. GTL diesel has a sulfur content of less than 5 parts per million.
The Oryx GTL plant will scale up over the next few months to convert gas from the North Field in the Gulf into 34,000 bpd of liquid hydrocarbons (mainly GTL diesel). In conjunction with Sasol Chevron and Qatar Petroleum, the intention is to increase the plant’s capacity to more than 100,000 bpd. The partners are also exploring building an integrated GTL plant with a capacity of about 130,000 bpd in the future.
The energy and carbon efficiencies of GTL remains a technical challenge. Industry estimates put the overall energy efficiency for the GTL process at about 60% (i.e., for 100 BTU of natural gas in, you get 60 BTU of hydrocarbon product out). Carbon efficiencies are about 77% (i.e., 23% of the carbon from the feed is lost in the form of CO2).
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