CompactGTL to build 3,000 b/d plant in Kazakhstan

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UK-based CompactGTL has signed a Memorandum of Co-operation (MoC) to build what could become the world’s first commercial small-scale gas-to-liquids project – a 3,000 b/d plant in Kazakhstan. Up to 0.82 MMcm/d of associated gas that might otherwise be wasted would be fed through the plant. The company hopes to have it up and running by 2017.

The MoU was signed by CompactGTL’s chairman, Tony Hayward, and Uzakbay Karabalin, Kazakhstan’s oil and gas minister, during the recent Caspian Corridor Conference in London. The aim is to “support the development and implementation in Kazakhstan of innovative associated gas processing technologies with the realisation of the world’s first commercial small-scale GTL plant”.

CompactGTL said the new plant would contribute to President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “Strategy of innovative development of Kazakhstan until 2020” by creating a local high-technology industry that processes associated gas to produce fuels for domestic consumption. Together with investors from Kazakhstan, CompactGTL has agreed to finance, design and build the plant, using its proprietary technology.

Expediting industrial development: Kanatbek Safinov, executive secretary at the oil and gas ministry, said: “Kazakhstan is very interested in attracting innovative and high technology businesses into its oil and gas industry to implement the decision of the President to expedite industrial development. This innovative project will help solve a number of social and environmental issues.”

“This is a significant step forward,” said Hayward, “not just for CompactGTL, but also for the small-scale GTL industry. Kazakhstan has clearly identified the significant economic benefits a small-scale GTL plant can bring. "

Initial engineering is expected to take about 12 months, followed by a construction period of around two years. This, said CompactGTL, “highlights the relative speed with which such a project can be delivered”.

Small-scale GTL edging towards FIDs: Until relatively recently, the GTL spotlight has shone most brightly on the large-scale projects undertaken by Sasol and Shell. Today, however – during the current hiatus in construction of large-scale projects – interest is building in the potential of small-scale GTL. The two companies widely regarded as the leaders in small-scale technology are CompactGTL and Velocys.

CompactGTL’s mini-channel

CompactGTL’s “mini-channel” FT technology has been proved at a 20 b/d plant in Brazil, constructed for the national oil and gas company Petrobras.

Both companies have been claiming for some time that their technology is ready for commercialisation. What everyone is waiting for is the commercial breakthrough that would be represented by a final investment decision (FID) on a full-scale project.

Unlike large-scale GTL plants, which generally have production capacities of more than 30,000 b/d, small-scale plants are aimed at applications requiring production capacities from hundreds of barrels a day up to around 15,000 b/d.

Illustration of CompactGTL reactors

Unlike conventional large-scale GTL technologies, CompactGTL reactors use brazed plate and fin construction to create “mini-channels”. These contain corrugated metallic inserts coated with catalyst which can be removed when catalyst needs to be replaced. (Source: CompactGTL)

The technologies look very different. Instead of the giant Fischer-Tropsch reactors used in large-scale plants, small-scale plants use much smaller, modular reactors made up of mini-channels or micro-channels, in which the chemical reactions take place. Target applications are different too, which has a big impact on project economics. The main applications are oil field monetisation and “distributed” GTL production.

Out of administration: CompactGTL aroused concern about its financial viability recently when it emerged that the company was going into administration. The company announced in early February that it had completed a restructuring with a significant new investment made by a partnership headed by Hayward, a former CEO of BP, and Ian Hannam, an investment banker.

“As a result of this investment and restructure, ” said the company, “the new investment partnership will become the majority owners of CompactGTL. Coller Capital will remain as a significant investor in the company. CompactGTL has therefore exited administration, a process which enabled it to complete this transaction.”