Sasol Chevron Mulls GTL Base Oils


Sasol and Qatar Petroleum announced last month that they are considering an expansion of the Oryx gas-to-liquids refinery now under construction in Ras Laffan, Qatar, and that base oils may become part of that project.

Depending on the outcome of their examination, the project could become the worlds first large-scale supplier of GTL base stocks.

The companies made their announcements during a March 23 signing ceremony in Doha, Qatar. Sasol also indicated that its place will now be assumed by joint venture Sasol Chevron, which becomes the operating partner in the project. Plans have called for Oryx to begin producing 34,000 barrels per day of liquids – mostly fuels – in late 2005 or early 2006. Now the partners have signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to evaluate the possibility of expanding it to 100,000 b/d by adding three more trains that would begin operating in 2009.

In addition, the companies said they will consider adding an integrated project using natural gas from Qatars North Field and six more production trains with another 130,000 b/d of capacity. If built, that project would begin operating by 2010 and would swell the overall investment by Sasol Chevron and Qatar Petroleum to $6 billion.

Representatives said base oils could be added to any of the three projects.

The fact that they are looking at it means that base oils will most likely be included, Sasol spokesman Johann Van Rheede told Lube Report yesterday. But it is very preliminary at this stage. No decisions have been made.

Because construction has already begun on the Oryx foundation plant, it would not begin making base oils by 2006, even if a base oils plant were tacked on. But it could start producing base oils ahead of a 140,000 b/d plant planned by Royal Dutch/Shell and Qatar Petroleum.

That project, announcedlast October and also located in Ras Laffan, is slated to be built in two phases, opening in 2008 and 2009. Shell and Qatar Petroleum saidtheir venturewill produce an unspecified amount of base oil, putting it in line to become the first large-scale plant to produce high-quality GTL base oils. Shell currently produces waxy raffinate, which can beused as a base oil feedstock, at its small GTL plant in Bintulu, Malaysia. Other plants using gas-to-liquids technology exist, but they do not produce base oils.

Sasol Chevron is a five-year-old joint venture between energy companies Sasol and ChevronTexaco, the former based in Johannesburg, South Africa, the latter in San Ramon, Calif. Qatar Petroleum is owned by the government of Qatar.

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