Gas- to-Liquids: it’s time to turn to distributed technologies
"The Oxford Catalysts Group"
17 May 2012
Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) is set to play a key role in energy production. A number of factors contribute to this,
especially in North America. These include low gas prices, more stringent environmental legislation to reduce
wasteful gas flaring, the growing desire for energy security and the push for cleaner fuels. With 25 million
barrels per day (bpd) of synthetic fuels potential from associated gas (gas produced along with oil) and stranded
gas (gas located far from existing infrastructure) combined with the growth in shale gas production, the
opportunities for monetising low value gas resources certainly exist.
“But,” says Jeff McDaniel, Commercial Director of the Oxford Catalysts Group, which includes the UK-based company
Oxford Catalysts Ltd and the US-based company, Velocys, Inc., “commissioning further massive GTL plants, such as
Shell’s Pearl Plant in Qatar, may not be the only way forward.” In a presentation entitled: “The Distributed GTL
Solution” to be given on 23 May 2012 at the 12th World XTL Summit in London, he will discuss the advantages of
modular GTL plants as a practical and cost-effective option for monetising associated, stranded and shale gas. He
will also describe the Group’s latest successes in commercialising its modular GTL technology for a range of
Jeff McDaniel, Commercial Director of the Oxford Catalysts Group says:
“Modular GTL plants incorporating microchannel reactors can be scaled to match the size of the resource. By
offering an efficient and cost-effective way to reduce environmentally unfriendly flaring of associated gas, and to
produce clean liquid fuels from smaller scale gas fields and shale gas resources, modular GTL represents a
revolutionary way of looking at the challenges associated with distributed processing of gas.”
The GTL process
Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) is a process used to convert natural gas into high quality liquid fuels that are totally
compatible with petroleum based fuels. These fuels can be used in existing engines and infrastructure. The GTL
process involves two main operations: production of a synthesis gas (syngas) via processes such as steam
methane reforming (SMR) or autothermal reforming (ATR); followed by Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. The
resulting product can either be blended with crude or be upgraded via hydrocracking and fractionation to
produce a range of liquid hydrocarbon fuels.
In SMR the methane gas is mixed with steam and passed over a catalyst to produce a synthesis gas (syngas)
consisting of hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO). The reaction is highly endothermic, so requires the input
of heat. This can be generated by the combustion of the excess H2 or other fuel gas. In ATR, oxygen rather than
steam is used to produce the syngas.
In the FT process, first developed in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to produce liquid fuel from coal, syngas
is converted into paraffinic hydrocarbons over a cobalt catalyst. The process is highly exothermic, or heat
generating. The FT product can be blended with crude oil, or upgraded via hydrocracking to produce a range of
products including diesel, jet fuel, naphtha and base oils for synthetic lubricants. Generally these products
are of higher quality than those derived by conventional means.
To request a diagram outlining the GTL process, e-mail: email@example.com
Distributed modular GTL
GTL plants can be built on a modular basis, located nearer the feedstock resource, by incorporating
microchannel reactors and the highly active catalysts optimised for use in them. Distributed GTL plants using
this modular approach provide a cost-effective way to take advantage of undervalued resources, such as shale
gas and stranded gas located far from existing pipeline infrastructure and markets, and associated gas produced
along with oil - resources which would otherwise be wasted. Distributed GTL could produce as much as 25 million
barrels per day (bpd) of synthetic fuels annually, worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reactors
Microchannel FT reactors are compact reactors containing thousands of channels with characteristic dimensions
in the millimetre range. Process channels, filled with catalyst, are interleaved with water-filled coolant
channels. The small-sized channels dissipate heat more quickly than conventional reactors with relatively
larger tubes in the 2.5 - 10 cm (1 - 4 inch) range. As a result, more active catalysts can be used.
Mass and heat transfer limitations reduce the efficiency of the conventional large FT reactors. The use of
microchannel technology makes it possible to overcome these limitations and to intensify the chemical
reactions, enabling them to occur at rates 10 to 1000 times faster than in conventional systems.
The Oxford Catalysts Group
Oxford Catalysts Group PLC is a listed public company (LSE: OCG) comprised of two operating subsidiaries -
Oxford Catalysts Ltd and Velocys, Inc. The Group has over 80 employees, and operates from facilities near
Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK and Columbus, Ohio, USA. The company was founded in October 2004 and admitted to
trading on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange on 26th April 2006.
The Group’s products (reactors and catalysts) are the basis for modular Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plants to convert
unconventional, remote and problem gas into valuable liquid fuels. These products are marketed under the brand
name Velocys. Together with its partners, the Group provides complete modular GTL solutions.
Velocys, Inc. is based in Columbus, Ohio, USA and specialises in microchannel reactors and process technology
for the conversion of low-value natural gas and other resources into clean-burning fuels. The company was spun
out of Battelle Memorial Institute, a major not-for-profit science and technology organisation, in 2001. It
owns, or has licences to, the largest microchannel patent portfolio in the world, with over 650 patent filings,
and supports a large microchannel development team. Velocys, Inc. was acquired by Oxford Catalysts in 2008.
Oxford Catalysts Ltd
Oxford Catalysts Ltd provides super-active catalysts for the generation of clean fuels from both low-value
fossil resources and renewable sources such as biomass.
Its core technology is a novel class of catalysts made using the organic matrix combustion (OMX) method. Due to
tight control of particle size and surface shape, these catalysts offer significantly higher productivity than
conventional metal catalysts, allowing products to be made with smaller amounts of catalyst. The catalysts are
also more stable and robust to changes in process conditions. These features make them well matched to the
Velocys microchannel reactors, especially for the Fischer-Tropsch process.
For further information or to obtain pictures, please contact:
Jeff McDaniel, Commercial Director, The Oxford Catalysts Group
Neville Hargreaves, Business Development Director, The Oxford Catalysts Group +1-614-733-3300;
Nina Morgan, Science Writer for the Oxford Catalysts Group