Pearl Gas-to-Liquids Plant, Qatar


Under the development and production sharing agreement with the government of the state of Qatar, the fully integrated Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) project was developed in Ras Laffan, Qatar.

Shell sourced funds for this project from its internal accruals. Construction of the plant began in 2006 and majority of the work was completed by the end of 2010.

In March 2011, the plant started receiving gas from the North field. Production from the first Pearl GTL train was started in June 2011. The second train came on-stream in November 2011. The full production from the plant was achieved by the end of 2012.

Pearl GTL opened a new global market for Qatari natural gas and allows Qatar to contribute constructively to improve the local environment by supplying a cleaner alternative transport fuel. Shell has extensive expertise in all aspects of the gas-to-liquids (GTL) value chain.

Gas-to-Liquids technology

The technology that supports the two-train Pearl GTL plant is called Shell middle distillate synthesis (SMDS). Proved and tested at Bintulu GTL plant in Malaysia in 1993, this technology evolved over three decades of research and development by Shell.

The Bintulu GTL Plant has the capacity to produce 14,700 barrels a day (bpd). SMDS helps in reduction of capital expenditure and allows for faster processing. This technology enables Shell to increase the production capacity of Pearl GTL.

Producing cleaner fuel

"The fully integrated Pearl GTL project was developed in Ras Laffan, Qatar."

Free of sulphur, colour and odour, GTL is considered a cleaner burning fuel than motor diesel.

Tests conducted by Shell in cooperation with Toyota, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler at different cities proved that GTL fuel emitted fewer polluting emissions than standard diesel.

For example, 25 Volkswagen Golf cars ran on 100% GTL fuel for three months and their engines emitted 91% less carbon monoxide, 63% fewer hydrocarbons, 26% fewer particulates and 6% fewer nitrogen oxides than the conventional diesel. Race track victories also proved that Shell's V-Power diesel containing GTL fuel is superior to standard diesel.

GTL product development

To meet the growing requirements of consumers, Pearl GTL produces different gas to liquids products. GTL plants are considered as giant chemistry establishments housing diverse chemical processes and practices.

The liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) piped offshore is produced free of contaminants such as metals and sulphur. Obtained at the end of the chemical processes, methane is turned into chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

The length of each chain and its properties results in a particular GTL product.

Products include:

  • GTL base oil: for lubricating vehicle engines, gearboxes and transmissions
  • GTL gas oil: blended with conventional diesel for cleaner burning and lower emissions
  • GTL kerosene: used for cooking, lighting and dry-cleaning. Its potential to be used as a jet fuel was proved by Airbus A380 flight from Filton, UK, to Toulouse, France. Its higher energy density and lower emissions means more savings per flight - GTL normal paraffin: considered virtually identical to oil-derived paraffin. It offers cost and location advantages to detergent-producing companies
  • GTL naphtha: with higher paraffin content helps plastic manufacturers to produce more plastic.

Sulphur thiogro technology

Lower sulphur content in GTL products means greater accumulation of sulphur reserves.

Shell has developed the sulphur thiogro technology, where accumulated sulphur can be increasingly used for enhancing fertilisers and strengthening roads and concrete. Sulphur added to fertilisers was found to be beneficial in sulphur-deficient soils.

Joint field trials by Shell and the Sulphur Institute of USA proved the use of sulphur with fertilisers lead to a 14% increase in yields.

Two different purposes are in strengthening roads and concrete. Shell thiopave strengthens road surfaces by adding sulphur pellets to asphalt, and Shell thiocrete is the process that produces less energy-intensive and less water-consuming sulphur concrete.

CRI / Criterion

Chell subsidiary CRI / Criterion is involved in research, development and production of different catalysts needed for the Pearl GTL. Catalysts help in synthesising natural gas into the long-chain wax molecules that form the basis for the diesel and other products.

SIMOPS or simultaneous operations

The less the time taken for drilling, the more money that is saved in terms of hiring men and materials.

"Pearl GTL opened a new global market for Qatari natural gas."

Shell's simultaneous operations (SIMOPS) have started drilling at the North Field rapid, with completion of drilling process well before schedule.

Simultaneous operations completed the drilling of the well and made it ready to produce, at a greater pace.

The drilling work was completed by the larger mobile drilling rigs positioned on the temporary decks.

Simultaneously, the temporary decks installed on each jackets carry out the production process of the operations.

Shell's zero liquid discharge approach

Pearl GTL Plant produces 140,000 barrels of gas to liquid products a day and an equal amount of water is reused at the plant.

In the desert conditions of Qatar, water is a scant resource. Water produced at Pearl GTL is used for cooling and to run the steam systems. Some water is used for landscaping at the plant.

Contractors involved with the GTL plant

WorleyParsons received a contract to provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services to the Pearl GTL plant in November 2016.

Cape was awarded a five-year contract to provide maintenance services. The contract also includes a one-year extension option.

Fluor and Qatar National Facility Services (QNFS) are responsible for providing multi-discipline maintenance services to the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar.