Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gas to Liquid Technology?




During the recent Brunei Environment Rountable organised by Asiainc Forum, many topics were discussed from the reduction of emissions to the use of alternative energy to the green heart of Borneo initiative.

During my reading in preparation for the roundtable, I came across something called gas-to-liquid technology or GTL which basically involves converting natural gas into diesel. I wanted to know from the representatives of our oil and gas sector why GTL was not considered as a means to reduce flaring, i.e. burning off excess gas like the furnaces that have been burning like giant candles 24/7 in Lumut eversince I can remember.

The response I got basically touched on the emission of CO2 and the prohibitive cost. Somehow this didnt tally with my reading. Below is an interesting excerpt from IHT on GTL efforts in Qatar :
Gas-to-liquids, provides an alternative to oil as a transportation fuel. Gas-to-liquids essentially transforms natural gas into diesel liquid that can be transported and sold using existing tankers, refineries and gas stations. Diesel is much more commonplace in Europe than in the United States, where consumers still think of it as a major polluting fuel for cars. Two German scientists, Franz Fischer and Hans Tropsch, developed the process in the 1920s after first discovering a way of converting coal into a liquid fuel.

Energy analysts say gas-to-liquid plants become competitive when oil prices climb above $30 to $35 a barrel, as they have in the last two years. And gas-to-liquid producers contend the fuel might attract a premium in countries looking for alternatives that reduce toxic diesel emissions. A report by the California Energy Commission recently recommended blending gas-to-liquids with existing fuel stocks to meet stringent fuel standards.

"One key aspect of the fuel is its low smog formation," said Andrew Brown, Shell's country manager in Qatar.

---- snip ----

Gas-to-liquid projects are taking off in Qatar above all for one reason. More than any other gas-rich country, Qatar has aggressively seized on new ways of monetizing its natural gas. And its model is likely to be studied in a world that has more natural gas than oil, with global gas reserves expected to last 67 years compared with 41 years for crude oil, according to BP, the British energy giant.

"Qatar is in a unique position," said Wayne Harms, ExxonMobil's country manager for Qatar, "in that it has a large field that's accessible, a politically stable government and a good vision of what it's doing." (Large field? Politically stable? Sounds familiar?)
Perhaps more knowledgeable readers would care to comment on why we are not adopting GTL in Brunei because it makes a heck of a lot of sense to me instead of just burning it off :)

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