Taking to the skies: A new era for Qatari GTL?
A number of prominent projects have propelled the gas-to-liquids field to the forefront of Qatar’s energy industry, just as the state looks to the sector to drive new growth.
Qatar is looking to its burgeoning gas-to-liquids (GTL) businesses to drive growth across the wider economy through 2013 and to help diversify the nation’s energy sector throughout the rest of the decade. The sector’s potential for the country was exemplified early in January, when Qatar Airlines (QA) operated a commercial Airbus A340-600 flight using GTL fuel from Doha International Airport for the first time, to London, United Kingdom.
The new GTL fuel for the flight, produced in Qatar by energy giant Shell and Qatar Petroleum (QP), was the first of its kind to be approved globally for more than 20 years. Qatar is attempting to drive growth in the GTL sector through a number of recently completed and newly announced projects, with investment of QR90 billion planned up until 2020 in the chemicals and petrochemicals field, which includes a number of GTL projects.
GTL is the act of converting natural gas, which Qatar possesses in abundance, into liquid-based hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel or petrol via a refining process. The refined products are more easily transported to global markets than gas, and have a higher sales value.
The Pearl GTL plant, in Ras Laffan industrial city in Qatar is the largest such project in the world. The plant’s second train ramped up to full-scale production towards the end of last year, and as a result, the GTL sector is expected to support growth in Qatar’s energy sector despite the scheduled completion of all large oil and gas projects.
According to Qatar National Bank (QNB Group), growth in Qatar in 2013 – despite the overall rate across the economy slowing – will be due to higher GTL production. “Oil and gas growth is forecast to pick up marginally in 2013, to 2.8 percent, owing to higher oil and liquefied natural gas output and a full year of Pearl GTL operating near its rated production capacity,” the bank stated.
In mid-January Doha played host to the first World GTL Congress, a three-day event that reflects the importance being placed on the sector at the very top in Qatar. QA chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, the man behind the airline’s innovative push to produce environmentally friendly jet fuel via GTL processes, addressed the conference.
“Qatar Airways began this journey five years ago with the aim of ensuring not only energy security and sustainable growth for our airline, but for the industry at large,” Al Baker said. “Since then we have moved from a concept on paper to the commercial supply of GTL fuel at the Hamad International Airport which will open its doors later this year, providing all aircraft that land with the facility to refuel with GTL jet fuel,” he added.
On the commercial side, Doha is looking to drive its burgeoning new industry through the establishment of Muntajat, a chemical and petrochemical marketing and distribution firm, as reported last month in The Edge. Launched at the end of December, Muntajat holds the rights to purchase, market, distribute and sell Qatar’s production of chemical and petrochemical regulated products to the international market place.
Fully approved for use as an aviation fuel, the GTL jet fuel is a blend of up to 50 percent GTL Synthetic Parafinic Kerosene (SPK) meeting the stringent requirements of ASTM-D-7566 and conventional crude oil-derived standard jet fuel (Jet A-1).
“The production of GTL jet fuel is a great achievement for Pearl GTL and Qatar,” said HE Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada, chairman of the board of Muntajat and Minister for Energy & Industry, chairman & managing director of QP. “GTL jet fuel will be supplied into the wider jet fuel pool at Doha International Airport enabling the State of Qatar to enjoy the benefits of this product. It is indeed an historic moment for Qatar that the first aviation fuel to be approved globally in the last 20 years originates in Qatar”.