ARCO and Syntroleum Corp., Tulsa, have started up a 70 b/d pilot gas-to-liquids (GTL) unit at ARCO`s Cherry Point refinery in Bellingham, Wash. The unit has achieved initial operating targets, and an evaluation program is proceeding, says ARCO.
The pilot plant is testing new reactor designs developed jointly by ARCO and Syntroleum and an improved high-performance Fischer-Tropsch catalyst developed by Syntroleum.
Syntroleum`s GTL technology includes two proprietary processes: one for conversion of natural gas to synthesis gas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide), and one for conversion of synthesis gas to synthetic fuels or petrochemicals (OGJ, Dec. 30, 1996, p. 85). The first reaction step is achieved in an autothermal reformer; the second takes place in a Fischer-Tropsch synthesis reactor.
The Cherry Point project is being led by ARCO`s upstream technology unit, ARCO Technology and Operations Services, based in Plano, Tex. It is being operated and evaluated by personnel from Syntroleum and from ARCO`s Plano offices, Cherry Point refinery, and Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska.
"The successful integration of the new catalyst system and the advanced reactor design represents a major step forward in assessing this important technology," said Jeff Bigger, ARCO`s GTL technology manager. "We will build upon the knowledge gained in this plant to refine our design concepts for large-scale plants. Our ultimate goal is to deploy an economically attractive design for commercializing stranded natural gas resources."
Syntroleum Pres. and COO Mark Agee said the project "ellipseexpands our base of reactor designs and catalyst systems, and we expect it will further lower capital costs in large-scale applicationsellipseIn the months ahead, we expect to be assisting all of our licensees with evaluating this new technology for their individual plans."
Aside from ARCO, Syntroleum`s licensees include Enron Corp., Kerr-McGee Corp., Marathon Oil Co., Texaco Inc., and Repsol-YPF SA (via an arrangement with the former YPF SA).
In a separate development, Syntroleum last week signed an agreement with Lubrizol Corp., Cleveland, to jointly develop and test additives for use with synthetic fuels produced via GTL processing. Initial programs will focus on additives for the "designer fuels" Syntroleum is developing jointly with DaimlerChrysler.
Interest and investments in GTL technology appear to be on this rise, as was demonstrated by the recent announcement that Chevron Corp. and Sasol Ltd. had created a global GTL technology joint venture (OGJ, June 14, 1999, p. 30).