Houston-based Biofuels Power Corporation (BFLS) has signed a letter of intent with ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions (Africa) (Pty) Ltd and Liberty GTL, Inc. to build a small-scale gas-to-liquid demonstration facility in Houston. The parties have established a non-binding target date to complete installation and commissioning of the GTL Pilot Plant on or before 31 December 2014. The purpose of the GTL Pilot Plant is to commercially demonstrate converting stranded natural gas resources to synthetic crude oil.
BFLS originally intended to develop biofuel-fired power projects. Since 2010, however, biofuel-fired power projects have not been economic due to declining prices for electricity, which are driven by lower natural gas prices. The company is switching its focus to GTL.
BFLS intends to differentiate itself by deploying small-scale GTL plants as modular field processing units at the wellhead and producing a synthetic crude oil suitable as feedstock for refineries or petrochemical plants.
BFLS will operate the GTL Pilot Plant for the 2-year demonstration. ThyssenKrupp will provide technical services and contribute a previously operating auto-thermal reformer pilot plant of proven design, which will be used to generate synthesis gas feedstock for the production of synthetic crude oil.
Liberty will provide intellectual property and operating know-how regarding crude oil synthesis along with the relevant catalyst supply. The Liberty technical team is also credited for designing the FT (Fischer-Tropsch) Reactor which will convert the synthetic gas to synthetic crude oil. The GTL Pilot Plant will be assembled at the Houston Clean Energy Park, which is an industrial estate owned by BFLS.
The focus of the GTL Pilot Plant will be to optimize design and operability of small-scale gas-to-liquid facilities capable of converting 5 – 10 million cubic feet per day of natural gas into approximately 500 bbls per day of synthetic crude oil. Building on Liberty’s previous engineering studies completed by ThyssenKrupp in 2013, BFLS and Liberty are in the process of completing engineering on a 500 bbls per day reference plant design with the goal of deploying multiple units in North America in the future. This process is scheduled to be completed in the coming weeks.
BFLS believes that gas to liquids projects of this size may be attractive to operating companies confronted with curtailing production or, in the extreme case, ceasing production due to capital cost barriers related to expansion of natural gas gathering, processing and transmission infrastructure. These stranded gas wells would be released for production if the planned GTL units could process the natural gas immediately after completion of the well.