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In the GTL (Gas to Liquids) process, natural gas is enriched with oxygen that was previously generated in an air separation plant. This reaction produces both hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO). Together, these make up the synthesis gas. Subsequently, the so-called Fischer-Tropsch process is applied using special catalysts to reform the synthesis gas into paraffin waxes and long-chain hydrocarbons. Finally, these are cracked to produce liquid, biologically degradable and sulphur-free hydrocarbons such as diesel fuel or kerosene.
World's largest GTL plant in Qatar
The huge potential of natural gas as a source of energy is particularly evident at the Pearl Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant operated by Qatar-Shell GTL Ltd. in Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar. This plant – the world's largest integrated complex of its kind – produces around 140,000 barrels of liquid hydrocarbons per day from natural gas, including naphtha, GTL fuels, paraffin, kerosene and lubricants. In addition, it also produces around 120,000 barrels of condensate, liquid petroleum and ethane per day.
The ethane is processed into ethylene, which is used at the site to make plastics. On behalf of Qatar-Shell GTL Ltd., Linde has built eight large air separation plants for this complex in recent years. Since mid-2012, they have been operating at full capacity to produce circa 860,000 cubic metres of oxygen per hour – an amount that is needed for the most varied production processes at the complex. The contract, which Linde was awarded in 2006, is the largest ever to have been tendered for air separation plants.
The foundation stone for this exceptional natural gas and chemical complex was laid in February 2007. At the end of 2010, most of the work had been completed and the first natural gas from the offshore field started flowing on March 22, 2011. The first four air separation plants went on stream in May 2011. The natural gas for the complex is extracted by two drilling platforms at the North Field, circa 60 kilometres off the coast of Qatar. This field contains around 15 percent of all known gas reserves, making it one of the largest deposits in the world.
GTL diesel helps the environment
GTL diesel features an extremely low concentration of hazardous substances and impurities such as sulphur and toxic aromatic and metal compounds. Combusting this fuel also produces significantly fewer polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are a health hazard. GTL diesel is thus the preferred fuel in large cities, as its low sulphur content promises to improve air quality in the future. GTL diesel complies with all international emission standards.
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