US university Establishes Gas Research Center in Qatar

US university Establishes Gas Research Center in QatarUS university Establishes Gas Research Center in Qatar

Texas A&M University has established a new research center in Qatar, one of the world’s largest gas producers, to develop new technologies to more efficiently extract shale gas and train students for jobs in gas processing amid the US shale boom.

The center will be housed at A&M’s campus in Qatar, a small Middle East nation with extensive experience in natural gas processing. Qatar leads the world in liquefied natural gas exports and is home to the world’s largest gas-to-liquids facility, a joint venture between Shell and Qatar Petroleum that can convert up to 1.6 billion cubic feet per day of gas.

A&M developed the research hub at a time when US companies are scrambling to capitalize on cheap, abundant natural gas, which is fueling a domestic manufacturing resurgence for the first time in decades. The deluge of shale gas has touched off a building spree as downstream companies expand, upgrade, retrofit and build new facilities to process the new products. Among the new proposals are gas-to-liquids plants, an old technique that has garnered new interest in the United States.

Nearly $15 billion in new plants have been announced, which could boost US capacity to make hydrocarbon liquids such as jet fuel and diesel by 103,300 barrels per day, according to a study released in July by the University of Texas’ Center for Energy Economics. Some companies have also eyed projects to liquefy and ship natural gas around the globe. A joint venture of Exxon Mobil and Qatar Petroleum International is awaiting approval from the federal government to build and operate a LNG export plant at its existing terminal at Sabine Pass.

A&M’s new Gas and Fuels Research Center will include 19 researchers in Qatar and College Station and will operate as a unit of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, which conducts engineering and technology research in collaboration with universities and colleges statewide. Funding from TEES and the Qatar campus provided initial support for the center, but the system expects the project to be fully self-sufficient after three years through federal grants and industry partnerships.

 “The needs of the state of Qatar and the state of Texas are quite aligned,” Dr. Mahmoud El-Halwagi, managing director of the center and chemical engineering professor at Texas A&M said in an interview with Fuel Fix. “Texas takes pride in being the energy capital of the world and Qatar takes pride in being the gas capital of the world.”