GTL Special: Box it up

As newer and more innovative small scale gas-to-liquids technologies emerge on the market, one company has taken the idea to a whole new level creating what it calls 'GTL in a box'

This is what GasTechno’s modular unit looks like after being converted from a 40-foot cargo container.
This is what GasTechno’s modular unit looks like after being converted from a 40-foot cargo container.

Small-scale technologies are gradually becoming the norm in the Gas-To-Liquids market. Companies can now take advantage of an array of flexible and customised equipment allowing them to monetise their previously flared gas. With the advent of installable, small size modular units, there is no longer the need to spend billions of dollars on building a dedicated plant from scratch.

This is the business model behind GasTechno, a US-based gas processing technology firm, which invented the world’s first single-step, small scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) solution designed to convert stranded gas into higher value liquid products.

“If you look at a traditional methanol process, it’s a three-step process, and if you look at a GTL process, it’s a four-step process. We are a one-step process,” explains Walter Breidenstein, chief executive officer of Gas Technologies or GasTechno for short.

“The Mini-GTL plant takes in the methane, processes it, converts it into a liquid product and produces a liquid saleable chemical. The technology is designed to be the only process at a very tiny scale that can capture those methane sources and convert them into liquid fuel that can be readily sold into the market.”

What started as a 40-foot modified cargo container is now being developed into a fully-fledged commercial plant. GasTechno’s first ever GTL facility is soon to be tested at a gas field in Michigan, US, after which it will be relocated to an oil field in North Dakota, where new emission regulations require oil producers to significantly reduce associated gas flaring in 2016 and beyond.

“Over the past ten years the price of oil has been at least $60/bbl 80% of the time. But it has only been over $82/bbl half of the time. Investing in technologies that are not economically viable at $60/bbl are quite likely to be in a money losing position for a meaningful portion of their lifecycle,” he said.

With gas prices low and growing emphasis on cutting carbon emissions, Breidenstein is of the opinion that 2016 is the perfect storm for Gas-To-Liquids technology.

“The market is really read. I think that now we are going to take a leadership role in offering alternative solution to massive jumbo plants as we demonstrate this technology more commercially.

“More and more companies that are producing gas and selling it into the market for lower prices and even at a loss will look to us and become much more interested in a joint venture or some sort of cooperative licensing model that will allow us to implement the technology in their fields.”

As part of its global growth strategy, in November last year GasTechno signed an agreement with Future Trends International Group, based in Shanghai, China, to establish the world’s first $2bn Sharia compliant carbon asset fund. The fund is set to finance GasTechno’s flaring emission reduction projects worldwide. With its first commercial plant soon to come on stream, Breidenstein says his company will be targeting projects where producers are seeking to add value to their “proven reserves” and expand their financing capacity. He also sees strict environmental regulations worldwide and depressed stranded or flared gas prices as the main drivers for investment in small-scale GTL technologies going forward.

“There is an unmet need in the oil & gas sector for an economically viable, small-scale Mini-GTL solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flaring and create value from stranded gas reserves,” said Breidenstein.

“Our new 40-foot modular plant is designed to address this massive market. Over the past two years, with the help of our proven and trusted industry partners, we have incorporated industry leading technologies and safety features into this modular design. I truly believe this Mini-GTL plant will help grow our industry and change how we think about reducing methane and CO2 emissions,” he concluded.

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