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 is being developed in Ras Laffan, Qatar.

Shell is sourcing 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 is expected to come on-stream by the end of 2011. The full production from the plant is expected by mid-2012.

Pearl GTL opens 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 (1993) in Malaysia, 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 will enable Shell to increase the production capacity of Pearl GTL.

Producing cleaner fuel

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

GTL is sulphur free, colourless and odourless. It 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 made free of contaminants like metals and sulphur. Methane, which is obtained at the end of the chemical processes, 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 in the UK to Toulouse in 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 14% increase in yields.

Two different purposes are in strengthening roads and concrete. Shell thiopave is a process used to strengthen road surfaces by adding sulphur pellets to asphalt and Shell thiocrete is the process by which less energy intensive and less water consuming sulphur concrete is produced.

CRI / Criterion

CRI / Criterion is a Shell company, 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 will be saved in terms of hiring men and materials.

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

Shell's SIMOPS or simultaneous operations has made drilling at the North Field rapid, with completion of drilling process well before schedule.

Simultaneous operations aims to complete the drilling of the well and get it ready to produce, at a greater pace.

The drilling work will be 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 will produce 140,000 barrels of gas to liquids products a day, and an equal amount of water to be reused at the plant.

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