Oil products plant considers adding GTL capacity

Calumet Specialty Products Partners LP, Indianapolis, earlier this month said it is considering adding a 1,000-b/d gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant to its Karns City, Pa., specialty products plant. This would be the first GTL installation in North America, so far as OGJ can determine; a few larger projects are under study and planning (OGJ, Sept. 19, 2011, Newsletter).

Plant design is to be completed by late this year, followed by site engineering and a decision to begin building in first-half 2013. Production could begin in second-half 2014.

Calumet has commissioned Pasadena, Tex.-based Ventech Engineers International LLC to design and deliver the GTL plant that will use an “autothermal reformer” from Haldor Topsoe Inc. and Fischer-Tropsch technology from Velocys Inc.

Haldor Topsoe's ATR is a technology for reforming natural gas into synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In the GTL plant, said the Calumet announcement, this synthesis gas will move through Velocys’s FT process, converting it into long-chain hydrocarbons, typically paraffins, naphthenes, and aromatic compounds.

Repeated calls by OGJ to Calumet’s president and its vice-president for operations were not returned. Nevertheless, a GTL expert, familiar with the Karns City plant and the chosen technologies, told OGJ that the economics of the installation would be questionable if the GTL plant were producing only transportation fuels, specifically diesel, the more typical products of a GTL process.

But, he said, because Calumet’s operation of the Pennsylvania plant to make high-margin lubes and petrochemical building blocks “changes the picture.” He added that lubes and specialty petchems are low-volume products, unlike commodity transport fuels.

The entire plant will be built as transportable modules at Ventech's plant in Southeast Texas, then moved to Karns City for installation and interconnection with the existing lube oil plant.

Contact Warren R. True at warrent@ogjonline.com.

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