Special Report: Harnessing the power of sour
The regional sour gas and sulphur sector, particularly in the UAE, is thriving with exports surpassing those of Western players, output touching new peaks, and projects rolling in
One would wonder why the Middle East’s oil and gas industry, which sits on vast reserves of gas laden with up to 30% of hydrogen sulphide, would consider that natural wealth of sulphur as a mere by-product. While regional operators have traditionally been more interested in processing the gas they produce to make it sweet enough for usage, predominantly for power generation, they have in recent history found little value for the sulphur that has been produced as a result of segregating H2S from the gas.
But that mentality is undergoing change in the regional oil and gas sector, and wouldn’t be wrong to say has completely been reversed in the UAE in particular. A reflection of this new approach to sulphur is the fact that the Emirates today is the world’s largest exporter of the commodity, the importance of which in industrial application is growing by leaps and bounds.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is spearheading the campaign to raise production of sulphur even further – in fact double output within a decade – as you would find out from the Knowledge Partner article (on pages 36-37). If this ambition were to be realised, the UAE would also become the largest producer of sulphur globally, surpassing the US and Canada in terms of output.
Processing of sour gas and extraction of the associated sulphur is however an expensive process. Considering the state-of-affairs where the effect of below par oil prices is still quite intrusive, NOCs need to be prudent about the type of technology and machinery they adopt so as to keep sour gas and sulphur operations cost-effective and valuable.
The region’s sour gas sector being in a developing phase, it is quite likely that methodology and equipment from established markets in North America and Europe will continue to be imbibed in the foreseeable future. It is thus necessary, as a seasoned consultant told me recently, that operators bear in mind that they are in the process of developing a sour gas market that abounds with business opportunities for Western players, who will flock to the region with products and theories that may not always be tried and tested.
To get an understanding of the available and new technologies that are making a difference in the sour gas and sulphur segment, I would recommend you to register and visit the Sour Oil and Gas Advanced Technology (SOGAT) event due to take place in Abu Dhabi from March 26th to 30th. The organiser, Dr Nick Coles of Dome Exhibitions, gives you a glimpse of what to expect from the event (page 40).
In the next issue, our Special Report will focus on the power generation sector. At a time when the energy value chain is strengthening and upstream LNG operations are addressing electricity production needs more than ever, the Report will explore the opportunities the scenario presents to manufacturers of machinery such as compressors and rotating equipment and service providers. My appeal to relevant equipment and service providers: do not miss out on the opportunity.