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Offshore GTL moves a step closer to reality

03 May 2011

Small scale gas to liquids (GTL) facilities based on the use of microchannel reactors and designed for use on offshore platforms have the potential to turn unwanted associated gas into an energy asset and make wasteful flaring and expensive re-injection of gas a thing of the past.

The recent arrival of an integrated 6 barrel per day (bbl/day) GTL demonstration plant to a test site at the Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras) Lubnor refinery in Fortaleza, Brazil brings this vision one step closer to reality. "Although the Oxford Catalysts Group's FT microchannel reactors already have been proven in biomass to liquids (BTL) trials taking place at the biomass gasification facility in Güssing, Austria, the trial in Brazil will provide the first proving ground for the SMR reactor," said Andrew Holwell, Business Development Manager at Oxford Catalysts.
"It also represents the first time FT and SMR microchannel reactors have been combined on a single skid. This technology advance demonstrates the potential for the use of small scale microchannel GTL plants to handle and profit from small volumes of gas which would otherwise be flared." The skid-mounted plant was built as part of a joint demonstration and testing agreement (JDTA) between the microchannel reactor specialists Velocys, Inc., the US-based member of the UK-based Oxford Catalysts Group; offshore facility developers, MODEC; the global engineering firm Toyo Engineering; and Petrobras. The skid includes microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) and steam methane reforming (SMR) reactors developed by Velocys, as well as all the auxiliary equipment required to convert methane to FT products. The plant will be used to produce a raw FT liquid and wax which can be further processed to provide a range of products or integrated into a crude oil stream for conventional refining. Following re-assembly, pre-commissioning and commissioning at the Fortaleza site, the demonstration plant is scheduled to start up in September, subject to the availability of the required utilities from Petrobras. It then will operate for approximately nine months.

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