Sasol's Lake Charles Gas-to-Liquid and Ethane Cracker Complex, United States of America


Sasol, an integrated energy and chemicals company, is about to start construction on a Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) facility and ethane cracker with downstream derivatives at its Lake Charles site in south-west Louisiana.

The total cost for the construction of the GTL facility is expected to reach $14bn, while the ethane cracker will need an investment of about $7bn.

The GTL facility, upon commissioning, will have a production capacity of 96,000 barrels per day (bpd) of transportation fuel. The ethane cracker will produce 1.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of ethylene. The ethylene producing facility is expected to come online in 2017, whereas the GTL facility will be commissioned in 2018.

The project is expected to generate more than 1,200 permanent jobs and about 7,000 construction jobs. The project will benefit the local economy by generating about $46.2bn during the next 20 years.

Products manufactured at Sasol's Lake Charles plant

"The GTL facility, upon commissioning, will have a production capacity of 96,000 barrels per day (bpd) of transportation fuel."

The decision to locate the plant in Louisiana is due to the availability of energy infrastructure, logistics infrastructure from the port and workforce. The project is set to create major milestones, being the largest single manufacturing investment in the history of Louisiana and one of the largest foreign direct investments in manufacturing in the United States. The GTL facility will also be the first of its kind in the country.

The GTL facility will produce GTL diesel, GTL naphtha, GTL base oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), paraffin and linear alkyl benzene (LAB), including medium and hard wax. The ethane cracker will produce solvents and surfactants, including ethylene oxide, ethylene glycol (MEG), ziegler alcohol, guerbet alcohol, ethoxylates and a variety of polyethylene products and co-monomers.

GTL facility project development

The feasibility study for the project was announced in September 2011. It was successfully completed prior to the start of the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase for the project in December 2012.

The first contract for the project was announced in April 2013, with the company making a purchase agreement for the main ethylene compressor trains from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Compressor Corporation.

The final investment for the project is expected to be announced following the completion of the FEED phase.

GTL technology for processing natural gas to liquid

Natural gas, which will be used as the feedstock for the plant, will be sourced from the neighbouring Haynesville Shale natural gas field in Louisiana.

"The total cost for the construction of the GTL facility is expected to reach $14bn."

The processing GTL technology of Sasol integrates its proprietary Slurry Phase Distillate process (SPD process), which comprises of three stages.

The first stage involves the combination of oxygen with natural gas to form syngas using Haldor Topsoe's autothermal reforming technology. The second stage involves the conversion of syngas to form waxy syncrude using its own low-temperature SPD Fisher-Tropsch (FT) reactor. The third stage involves the cracking of the hydrocarbon to create the end product implementing Chevron's patented Isocracking technology.

The products produced using the SPD technology release less sulphur content and fewer emissions. The technology involves the removal of sulphur from the syngas before synthetic fuels are produced.

Marketing commentary for Sasol

Sasol, with its headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, has a workforce of about 34,000 people and operates in 38 countries. The company has used its proprietary technology to produce more than 1.6 billion barrels of liquid fuels and chemicals from coal and natural gas for more than 60 years.

The company began operating its first GTL plant "Oryx GTL" which has a production capacity of 32,400bpd in collaboration with Qatar Petroleum in 2007. It is currently involved in the construction of the Escravos Gas-to-Liquids (EGTL) plant in Escravos, Nigeria, with a production capacity of 120,000bpd, which is set to be commissioned in 2013.

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