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Fueling liquid solutions

Written by  Author |   Tue, 05 March 2013 09:09


Industry Leaders gathered in the GTL's capital for the inaugural World GTL Congress



Held under the patronage of Qatar's Minister of Energy and Industry, His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, also the chairman and managing director of the state behemoth Qatar Petroleum (QP), delegates to the World GTL Congress gathered from 13-15 January 2013 at the St. Regis Hotel, Doha, discussing a rich agenda aimed at spurring the industry. For three days, the Congress also witnessed side events and an exciting exhibition.

Global gas-to-liquid (GTL) leaders from the US to Japan, and everything in between, descended in Qatar to participate in the inaugural World GTL Congress. Organized by IQPC (the International Quality & Productivity Centre), with QP hosting the world's largest such assembly to date, the congress stole the industry's spotlight at a time when GTL is fast cementing its position as a revolutionary novel technology with potential to power such wide-ranging industries as aviation, vehicle engine manufacturing, fuel companies, lubricant manufacturing and petrochemical plants.

The first edition of the World GTL Congress was supported by leading Qatar and global organizations, including: QP (Host Organisation), Shell (Host Sponsor), ORYX GTL (Lead Sponsor), Tasweeq (Diamond Sponsor), CCC (Silver Sponsor), Sasol (Official Gala Dinner Sponsor), Veolia Water Solutions, Gasal & Air Liquide (both as Associate Sponsors), Gulf Warehousing Company (Official Logistics Partner), and Qatar University (Official Education Partner).

During the event, more than 500 attendees from 30 countries, representing a broad sweep of industries from education and research to national oil companies, utilised the enormous opportunities on the sidelines of the conference and broke out workshop sessions to network, exchange ideas, gain knowledge and foster a formidable new circle of business partnerships.

After the official opening ceremony on Sunday, January 13 thanks to an opening address and keynote speech by Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi, Managing Director, RasGas Company Limited, insightful keynote speeches were addressed by Akbar Al-Baker, Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Airways; Wael Sawan, Managing Director and Chairman, Qatar Shell; and Saad Al-Kuwari, Chief Executive Officer, Qatar International Petroleum Marketing Company (Tasweeq).

The congress enjoyed the expertise of some of the leading GTL experts who have extended their advice to the congress organizers. They included Dr Ramzi Salman Abdul Hussain; Senior Advisor from QP, Rob Overtoom; Technology Manager of Pearl GTL from Qatar Shell GTL Limited, Niels Fabricius; Senior Technical Advisor from Qatar Shell Service Company, and Abdulla Al-Naemi; Marketing Director of Refined Products from, Tasweeq.

With an eye to the future, the first World GTL Congress got off to a rousing start as industry stalwarts signaled to a paradigm shift in the global energy market with GTL at the helm. The Congress spotlighted the evolution of the GTL industry as well as GTL plants operations technology, and focused on the current and future GTL projects, products and markets.

Setting the tone for the opening day and over the next two days, the keynote speakers – representing producers to end users – explained their enthusiasm for GTL and its rapidly-expanding role in the global energy markets as all the presentations converged to indicate the arrival of the "golden age of gas".

The World GTL Congress concluded its three-day inaugural edition as it shed the light on the significance of the GTL industry and its pivotal role in the future. As befitting of an industry chalking a bigger role in the global energy future, more than a dozen students from various universities across Qatar seized the opportunity to enable them for roles in the oil and gas industry on the final day of the inaugural World GTL Congress.

Over the three days of conference and breakout workshops, leading industry experts discussed the most pressing strategic issues relating to GTL's legal and financial framework, and developed policies that will help drive the development of the industry. The congress also featured a world-class line up of international GTL visionaries who showcased technological innovations and offered solutions to the challenges facing the region's GTL industry.

But more than a coming together of assembly leaders, the World GTL Congress highlighted Qatar's drive to pioneer the continued development of the GTL industry for producing cleaner and more environmentally-friendly products for the world. It was another testament to how complementation, and not competition, is the way forward.



THE BIG PICTURE
Pierre Eugene Berthelot may have sparked a controversy or two in the 19th century because of his views on abiosis – the state of non-viability – but his position that coal could be converted into an oil-like product went on to instigate new technologies so potent, they can fuel our future for decades to come.
That was 1869.

Today, our ability to transform solids and gases into liquids from the depths of fjords to wadis has opened new gateways of opportunity. As worldwide levels of readily available crude oil dip and new sources of gas – a cleaner and more efficient hydrocarbon – are explored, advancement in technology to steam gases into liquids could not have come at the right moment for an industry on the brink of fast-depleting conventional resources and a rising investment in alternative energy.

At the heart of this great industry success story lies the innovation by two German scientists, Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch. Working at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut for Chemistry in Berlin in 1922, the duo developed the eponymous Fischer-Tropsch process, a series of chemical reactions that converts carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons.
Fischer and Tropsch went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1930.

LIQUID POTENTIAL
In 1935, the first industrial-scale production of coal to oil, in the UK, further cemented the potential of liquid technology, after British firm ICI successfully built a plant at Billingham, County Durham, known as the Oil Works.

However it wasn't until the 1970s that companies that had previously eschewed coal-to-liquid and gas-to-liquid technologies as economically unviable began to reassess their stance. The backdrop was a series of oil-related crises, punctuated by the 1973 OPEC oil embargo and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that together wrecked widespread economic havoc and global oil shortages.

The result was a renewed focus on GTL as many plants sprang up across countries from New Zealand to Malaysia to South Africa, some of which continue to provide a variety of fuel and derivatives to this day.



LEADERS OF GTL

When Qatar's first GTL plant was commissioned in 2003, there were only three such facilities in the world using the Fischer-Tropsch process; two in South Africa, operated by Sasol, and one in Malaysia, powered by Shell.

Sensing an opportunity, Qatar seized the prospect of creating a GTL economy-of-scale leading to widespread development of an astonishing degree, and in the process claiming the recognition of being the "GTL capital of the world".

Spurring the initial momentum was the 2007 opening of the 32,400 barrels per day ORYX GTL plant in the Ras Laffan Industrial City, northeast of Doha, with Qatar and Sasol behind the project. Producing diesel and naphtha, it remains the world's first commercial-scale GTL plant.

Qatar's commitment to strengthen the rapidly-developing industry saw state-owned Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell open their Pearl GTL facility in Ras Laffan Industrial City in 2011.  Using Shell's proprietary GTL technology, the facility is at least four times larger than its nearest rival with the capacity to produce 140,000 barrels per day of GTL products and 120,000 barrels per day oil equivalent of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) condensate and ethane.

THE WAY FORWARD
The development of GTL in Qatar has had a double impact on the country, one in terms of generating revenues as exports, and secondly in the development of GTL technology, which is being sought out by the oil and gas industry, particularly countries looking to diversify ways of income from their energy reserves such as Russia, Australia, Indonesia, Libya, Algeria, the U.S. and Canada.

The GTL development in Qatar has further heralded new uses such as GTL jet fuel, a half-and-half combination of conventional jet fuel and synthetic kerosene drawn from converting natural gas into liquid form.

The on-going research and continued improvement in technology further indicates that GTL will become the preferential fuel for organizations looking to minimize the negative effects of their operations on environments as part of their mission to be seen as environmental harbingers.

This focus on clean energy alone is reason enough why GTL is set to become the fuel of choice to energize the future.

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