Shell Ships First GTL


The first commercial shipment of base stocks left Shell and Qatar Petroleums Pearl gas-to-liquids plant last week, bound for Houston. Shell said it was part of a plan that will send output from the Qatar plant to terminals in the United States, Germany and China.

The Pearl plant, the worlds first large-scale GTL base stock plant, is located in Ras Laffan, Qatar. The base stock plant, part of a larger refinery that turns natural gas into fuels and other petroleum products, has two production trains. So far, only the first train has started, and apparently it took at least six months to move from start-up to the first commercial delivery. In an Oct. 19 statement, Shell said the train began operating during the first quarter of this year.

In the same statement, Shell Lubricants Vice President for Supply Chain Yuri Sebregts said the first cargo departed Ras Laffan earlier that week. Many observers have concluded that Shell intends to use output from the first production train in-house, at least until the second unit starts next year. Shell has refused to confirm or deny that.

Shell has not identified the blending plants where Pearl stocks will end up, but Lisa Davis, president, Shell Commercial Fuels & Lubricants, Americas, did say they will be distributed through three hubs.

GTL base oil will be delivered to the three regional hubs in Houston, Hamburg and Hong Kong, Davis told Lube Report. From there, the product will be distributed to GTL-enabled blending plants.

Expected to have 28,800 barrels per day capacity when completed, the Pearl base oil plant includes two identical trains, and Shell has said the second train will open next year. The plant will produce 4 and 8 centiStoke API Group III base oil and a 3 cSt Group II.

Shell declined to say how long it will take to ramp up the first production train, but did state that both trains should be running at capacity by June 2012. The company has previously said that the second production train would start up early next year.

Davis said the company plans to use Pearl stocks both in existing finished lubricants and in the formulation of new ones.

As production grows, we will use GTL base oil to both update our existing premium formulations and develop next-generation premium oils that address needs for improved energy efficiency, longer equipment life and reduced maintenance costs, she noted. Research efforts supporting these goals have been under way for some time.

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