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The Pearl GTL plant produces more water than gas-to-liquids products in a place where water is extremely scarce and hard to come by given the desert climate.

Amazingly, the chemical reaction that occurs when synthesis gas is passed over catalysts in a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant produces water as well as the building blocks for GTL products.

“The amount of water that Pearl GTL produces makes it possible to run the plant without drawing on Qatar’s scarce natural fresh water resources or on seawater,” says Rob Overtoom, Technology Manager on the Pearl GTL project.

Over the longer term Shell aims to use every drop of this water as part of its approach to not discharge any liquids from the plant. Pearl GTL’s industrial water processing plant is the world’s largest for the recovering, treating and re-using of industrial process water. With a capacity to treat 280,000 barrels of water a day, Pearl GTL’s water treatment plant is comparable to a plant for a town of 140,000 people.

After cleaning the industrial water by removing trace metals, hydrocarbons and any particles, most water is used for cooling by evaporation and for steam systems. Some of it is used for maintaining bushes, shrubs and trees at the plant.

An R&D laboratory that opened in November 2013 at the Qatar Shell Research and Technology Centre focuses on research and development into water use and how this might further be reduced at Pearl and other projects.