FocusUS Velocys sees small-scale GTL process yielding big results

03 May 2013 18:25  [Source: ICIS news]

US Velocys sees small-scale GTL process yielding big resultsBy Jeremy Pafford

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Velocys hopes its new gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in Ohio will show petroleum and natural gas producers how a small-scale conversion of associated and problem gas can lead to big-time profit margins.

This week, the US-based company, a subsidiary of UK-based Oxford Catalysts Group, opened its Customer Training Center and Pilot Plant in Plain City, Ohio, where the company demonstrates its ability to operate an integrated GTL facility and train employees from customer organisations as plant operators.

The demonstration plant features the company’s Fischer-Tropsch (FT) and Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) technologies.

Velocys’ GTL process takes natural gas and uses the SMR to convert it into a synthesis gas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Through the FT process, the mixture of gases is converted into oils and waxes, which can then be further processed into products such as ultra-clean diesel, jet fuel, naphtha and bases for synthetic lubricants.

The demonstration plant has a production capacity of just 1 bbl/day of ultra-clean diesel, spokesperson Michelle Moore said.

But the Velocys process can be scaled up to produce 1,000-15,000 bbl/day for companies who implement it at their facilities, said Tad Dritz, business development director for the company.

Velocys is marketing its product toward two areas – gas producers who would like to tie their assets to both the gas and liquids markets, and producers interested in the end products produced by the GTL process, Dritz said.

The company’s GTL process makes potent “super fuels” that are more powerful and cleaner than the same fuels produced from petroleum, he said.

For example, diesel refined from petroleum has a 40-45 cetane rating, while ultra-clean diesel produced through Velocys’ GTL process has a 75 cetane rating, Dritz said. Some producers blend some ultra-clean diesel into refined diesel to lower emissions and boost cetane ratings, he said.

Dritz views his company’s GTL process as a small-scale way for companies to profit on associated gas or problem gas that would normally be flared or re-injected into wells.

The World Bank has said that an estimated 134bn cubic metres of gas was flared worldwide in 2010. If all that was instead converted into liquid fuels, it would yield 500m bbl, Velocys officials said. And that does not take into account the trillions of cubic feet of gas that is re-injected into the ground in order to avoid flaring.

Velocys’ GTL method makes capturing that gas and processing it economically viable for small- and mid-sized companies, who before would not consider it due to the costs, Dritz said.

Such companies are considering the technology, Dritz said, and now Velocys has a plant to show it off.

“It’s had huge interest,” he said. “We get 5-10 calls a week.”

By: Jeremy Pafford
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