By Ben DuBose
HOUSTON There are several economic benefits to placing
gas-to-liquids (GTL) units within existing refineries, the
vice president of process technology
at contracting firm
Fluor said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the GTL Technology
Forum, Paul Koppel
outlined the economic problems with many current GTL
proposals and explained how increased synergies can help push
developers are new
organizations that dont have a track record, he
said. Many of the technologies are new and unproven
commercially. Bankers dont look kindly on that.
So who will take the risk?
By working in tandem with existing refineries, some of that
risk can be mitigated, Koppel said. Benefits to placing a GTL
unit inside a refinery
include the possibility
of using excess syngas capacity, the potential availability
of CO2, the use of a hydrocracker for upgrading, and the
availability of existing utilities, offsites and services.
If syngas production, a hydrocracker and services are
available, total investment cost can be reduced by 75
percent, Koppel said.
Even if syngas is unavailable, you can still reduce
cost by about 45 percent, weve found.
The tradeoff would be that the feedstock
natural gas is indexed
to the Henry Hub price, which currently averages near
$4/MMBtu, rather than natural gas in remote areas, which runs
from $0-$2/MMBtu, Koppel explained. However, the synergies in
other areas could offer the appearance of a more broad
One reason to promote this solution, he said, is that Fluor
has found co-processing waste CO2 in GTL plants can boost
yields and improve utilization rates.
By putting in CO2 and operating at the right conditions,
Koppel said that CO2 can serve as an appropriate substitute
for steam in the GTL process.
With the addition of CO2, you can get a hydrogen-to-CO
ratio of about 2, which is exactly where you want to
be, Koppel said. Thats the ratio required
for Fischer-Tropsch and methanol
synthesis, and it
minimizes the syngas adjustment.
For the purpose of co-processing, the waste CO2 can be
extracted from pipelines, refineries, ammonia plants and flue
Once the process begins, Fluor works with MIDREX on a natural
gas reforming process, which allows for high a CO2 addition
rate and a low steam-to-carbon
That allows you to save energy and reduce water
use, Koppel said.
The downside to this process is higher compression costs,
There is no perfect solution, he said.
Theres always a trade-off.
On the whole, Koppel said he was fairly optimistic on the
future of GTL. Fluors experience includes involvement
in most of the big GTL project
s that have been built
around the globe, including the Sasol I, II and III programs
in South Africa; Sasol in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Shell
Bintulu in Malaysia; and Mossgas in South Africa.
The challenge the industry has is how we move
ahead, Koppel said. Overall, it is a good
technology and something we really need.
The annual GTL Technology Forum continues through
Thursday in West Houston.