Iran Joins Club of GTL Technology Owners

Iran Joins Club of GTL Technology Owners Iran Joins Club of GTL Technology Owners

Preliminary operations to construct the first gas-to-liquid (GTL) plant in Qeshm Island have commenced, head of the Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI) said Saturday, Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran has achieved relevant science and technology to extract petroleum liquids from natural gas, Hamidreza Katouzian said, noting that some countries such as Australia, United States, and Canada had exclusively possessed the technology so far.

GTL is a process that converts natural gas into liquid fuels such as gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel. Using gas-to-liquid processes, refineries can convert some of their gaseous waste products (flare gas) into valuable fuel oils, which can be sold as it is or blended only with diesel fuel.

A pilot GTL plant was constructed at the RIPI, on the basis of which commercial plants with a capacity of 3,000 bpd are to be built. The investment required for the project will be provided by private sector, Katouzian said.

GTL opportunities can be created where gas byproduct from oil production is too far from pipelines and thus flared, and from smaller gas fields where output is a limiting factor. 

Iran's proven gas reserves account for one fifth of the world's total gas reserves and the Qeshm Island lies at the center of the country's rich gas fields. With 4 billion barrels of in-place oil reserves and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, Qeshm Island, the biggest in the Persian Gulf, is a suitable location to establish refineries and GTL plants.

There are two vast gas fields near the Qeshm Island. One is Gurzin field, which yields two million cubic meters of sweet gas annually for the power plant of Bandar Abbas and the other is the untapped field of Salakh whose reserves are estimated to be more than the former field.

It has been estimated that less than 10% of the world’s gas fields are large enough to sustain a 10,000 bpd GTL facility.  But scaling production down to the 2,000 bpd range is estimated to open up 40% of the world’s gas fields to economic viability.

As of February 2014, there were only five GTL plants operating globally, with capacities ranging from 2,700 barrels per day (bpd) to 140,000 bpd, according to US Energy Information Administration.

Considering the opportunities to treat gas that would otherwise be flared, to unlock uneconomic shale and conventional gas fields, and increase opportunities for biomass, waste and coal conversion, "small-scale GTL may well have a significant niche to fill in our emerging energy picture," Katouzian stated.