Gas To Liquid Liquid Assets: Custom-Made Catalyst For The World’s Largest Gas-To-Liquid Plant

Author / Editor: Tim Clark / Dominik Stephan

The chemical reaction at the heart of the world’s largest gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant starting up in Qatar is borne out of Shell’s long history and expertise in catalyst technology and innovation. A unique catalyst developed for the Pearl GTL plant is key to the efficient conversion of synthesis gas into heavy hydrocarbons that provide feedstock for advanced fuels, base oils and chemicals.

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The latest generation of catalysts at the heart of the GTL process is key to extracting the full value of Pearl’s economies of scale. (Picture: Shell)
The latest generation of catalysts at the heart of the GTL process is key to extracting the full value of Pearl’s economies of scale. (Picture: Shell)

For Shell, the start up of Pearl GTL is the culmination of more than three decades of research, the filing of around 3,500 Gas-To-Liquid (GTL) related patents, and the development of the most advanced cobalt catalyst. The heavy paraffin synthesis (HPS) catalyst at the plant’s core accelerates the reaction that converts synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, into hydrocarbons that can be broken down into shorter chain molecules and then turned into finished GTL products.

Shell’s GTL process technology drives the world’s first commercial-scale GTL plant in Bintulu, Malaysia, which has been operating since 1993. Pearl GTL, a joint development between Qatar Petroleum and Shell, is ten times larger than Bintulu, however, and several advances in catalyst design and production have been crucial to the scaling up of the process. The latest generation of HPS catalyst helps to extract the maximum value from Pearl GTL’s economies of scale, allowing the plant in Qatar’s Ras Laffan Industrial City to produce 140,000 barrels of GTL products every day (see box right). The HPS catalysts are distributed throughout tens of thousands of tubes inside each of the plant’s 24 multi-tubular reactors. The catalysts are the size of a grain of rice but have a combined internal surface area several times the size of the state of Qatar.#

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