Sasol GTL plant set to open January in Qatar

Sasol, together with Qatar Petroleum (QP), plans early next year to open a US $1.5 billion plant in Qatar, as part of the Oryx project, amidst other stalled GTL projects in Qatar.

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By  Jyotsna Ravishankar Published  July 4, 2005

Sasol, together with Qatar Petroleum (QP), plans early next year to open a US $1.5 billion plant in Qatar, as part of the Oryx project, that will convert about a third of a billion cubic feet of lean gas into 34,000 barrels of liquids each day. This project is the first GTL venture worldwide to be financed by a third party. The contract, now 85% towards completion, is financed 51% by Qatar Petroleum and 49% by Sasol. The company is also considering a further US $6 billion expansion in Qatar in a venture with Chevron Corp, said Enrico Ganter, investment relations manager of Sasol. Qatar had previously delayed GTL projects with Marathon and Chevron Texaco. A Sasol project planned with Chevron Texaco has also been delayed. Abdullah Al Attiyah, Qatar’s energy minister, has cited the “feasibility of the projects” as a reason for the delay. In reality, Qatar has chosen to favour LNG over GTL, as it was providing the country with greater returns. But the South African giant Sasol has been in the forefront in developing GTL plants in Qatar. Sasol uses technology invented by German scientists in 1923 that can convert coal or gas into fuels and chemicals such as diesel and naphtha. The technology gained favour after crude oil prices rose to a record in April, boosting demand for alternatives. It’s also cleaner than fuel derived from crude oil. Like liquefied natural gas production, GTL (gas-to-liquids) technology provides a way to use gas in places far from energy markets because it can be converted on site before being shipped. The drawback of this technology is that much of the energy is lost in the process of conversion. Reports suggest that the company will next year complete a study on using natural gas in Iran, part of a strategy that may double the number of plants it plans to build. The Iranian project, which is in association with the state oil companies, lies on the South Pars field, the world’s largest deposit of natural gas. Sasol already produces about 150,000 barrels of oil products a day in South Africa, almost all of it from coal-to-fuel plants. It supplies 41% of the country’s liquid fuel. The company may also build two coal-to-fuel plants in China at a cost of about US $6 billion.

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