The Future of Gas-to-Liquids Plants

Date Published:   01/25/2023

Falling feedstock prices, greater efficiency, and an increased worldwide demand as more economies emerge all present lucrative opportunities for the conversion of natural gas to liquid synthetic crude oil. That’s because much of the world’s natural gas – up to one-third by many estimates – are located in remote deposits. Liquefaction of natural gas makes it more economical to transport via tanker or pipeline and to store for future refinement and use. Small, onsite gas-to-liquid (GTL) plants will make tapping these “stranded gas” deposits profitable.

Natural gas has proven the best feedstock for creating crude oil alternatives through the industry standard Fischer-Tropsch process, topping coal in purity, handling, and ease in conversion to syngas, which is required for efficient conversion to synthetic crude.

GTL Plant Benefits

The synthetic oil GTL plants produce is virtually interchangeable with conventional oil, both as refined transportation fuels and petrochemicals. Technological breakthroughs in catalyst design and reactor engineering, as well as more efficient chemical processes, have reduced start-up and operating costs to the point where they are becoming competitive.
GTL is becoming more attractive for a number of reasons:

  • Ecology – The GTL process creates more homogeneous mixtures, with less sulfur, nitrogen, and aromatics, making combustion more consistent and complete, so carbon emissions are reduced.
  • Supply – Natural gas, the preferred GTL feedstock, is plentiful compared to oil and coal. Developed and emerging economies can use technology to literally fuel their growth.
  • Feedstock Cost – The abundance of localized stranded gas pockets around the world and the greater accessibility of shale gas in the United States has helped keep the cost of natural gas low. The ability to transform natural gas into higher-value fuels for transportation has generated significant interest in monetizing natural gas. Low feedstock costs now can offset many of the higher startup and operating costs associated with GTL plants.
  • National Security – Exploiting natural gas to produce the inputs needed to manufacture oil-based products can reduce dependence on oil imports that can be withheld as a diplomatic, negotiating, or strategic weapon.

Industry Outlook

While significant challenges remain in order to maximize production efficiencies, revenues, and profits, investors in gas-to-liquid processing have the potential to get in on the ground floor of a lucrative industry. Major players such as Shell and Exxon-Mobil are investing heavily in GTL technologies that eventually will bring improved efficiencies, lower costs, and develop markets. These markets are expected to become ever more segmented, as countries strive to:

  • Develop domestic industries
  • Reduce dependence on imports
  • Build industrial and transportation infrastructures
  • Create jobs

Gas-to-Liquid Processing

As mentioned above, the conversion of natural gas into liquid petroleum products involves the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, but the first part of the conversion involves the production of syngas through a reformer that converts natural gas to base reactants. Synthetic gas, “syngas” is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide produced by the high-temperature reaction between the methane in natural gas and steam. It is commonly used in the production of ammonia. In step two, the FT process converts syngas to synthetic hydrocarbon in the form of paraffins. The final step, called “upgrading,” injects more hydrogen into the waxy, long-chain paraffins under mild hydrocracking conditions. The hydrogen breaks the chains into diesel, kerosene, naphtha, and other valuable products while removing impurities such as olefins. 

Gas-to-Liquid Plant from Phoenix

Phoenix Equipment offers used GTL and syngas processing equipment for startup and expanding operations. Phoenix recently acquired a complete 7 million standard cubic feet per day (18,500 normal cubic meters per hour) plant offering turnkey entry into the industry. Built-in 2016 and operational as a demonstration plant for only a few months, this Hydro-Chem (now Linde) manufacturing facility is immediately available for purchase. The ready-to-commission plant includes two reforming units, feed heater and superheater, desulfurizer, steam generators and drums, and more. The equipment provides all you need to produce syngas from natural gas or biomass and then convert it to naphtha and diesel with the Fischer-Tropsch process.

For more information view the plant liquidation, call Phoenix Equipment at (732) 442-6990, or contact our sales team and we would be happy to assist you.

Stock# 530
Plant Subcategory Gas-to-Liquids Plants
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