The Pearl GTL plant started up in two phases after major construction was completed at the end of 2010. In the initial phase, Train 1 of the plant was put into operation in early 2011 and exported the first commercial shipment of gasoil in June 2011.
In the second phase, Train 2 was put into operation in early November 2011. The two trains, comprising the entire plant, achieved full ramp-up of production towards the end of 2012. Pearl GTL continues to run some of the largest gas processing trains in the world and is doing so safely and reliably.
Upstream, Pearl GTL produces and processes around 1.6 billion cubic feet a day of wellhead gas from the world’s largest single non-associated gas field – the North Field – which stretches from Qatar’s coast out into the Gulf.
The plant will process about 3 billion barrels-of-oil-equivalent over its lifetime. The offshore scope includes 22 development wells, two unmanned wellhead platforms in about 30 metres of water and two 30-inch pipelines running about 60km to shore.
Onshore gas processing facilities treat the sour, rich wellhead gas to remove contaminants, such as metals and sulphur, and further extract natural gas liquids: ethane for petrochemical processes, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for domestic heating and cooking and condensates as a feedstock for refineries.
Elemental sulphur produced as a by-product is turned into pellets and shipped to the nearest market to make hydrosulphuric acid, fertiliser or other valuable products.
The pure gas, or methane, that remains then flows to the GTL section of the plant, where it is combined with oxygen and converted in a state-of-the-art three-stage process into a range of gas-to-liquids products using Shell proprietary technology.
The proprietary Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (SMDS) process is at the heart of the two-train Pearl GTL plant. Developed over more than three decades, the process has been proven on a commercial scale at the 14,700-barrel-per-day Bintulu GTL plant in Malaysia, which began operation in 1993.
Shell has more than 3,500 patents across all stages of the GTL process. The Bintulu experience helped improve the chemical catalysts integral to the SMDS process. These improvements help reduce unit capital expenditure, allowing faster processing that enables Shell to produce greater volumes of fuel and other products at Pearl.
The plant includes systems to capture energy given off during the processes, converting it to steam that drives the plant’s compressors and generates electricity.
The water recycling plant – the largest of its kind – treats water for reuse in steam production and cooling. It can process 45,000 cubic metres of water per day.
Building on its extensive experience marketing GTL products from Bintulu, Shell exports Pearl’s high-value, differentiated premium products – including GTL gasoil, kerosene, naphtha, normal paraffin and base oils for lubricants – to markets around the globe.
Environment and society
Together with Qatargas 4, Pearl GTL represents Shell’s multi-billion dollar commitment to Qatar that was developed in line with the company’s sustainable development principles.
The project was designed to use technology that helps limit any environmental impact. Pearl GTL’s industrial water processing plant is the world’s largest, recovering, treating and reusing all the industrial process water. With a capacity to treat 280,000 barrels of water a day, Pearl GTL’s water treatment plant is comparable to that for a city of 140,000 people.
Related press releases
June 13, 2011 - First cargo of Pearl GTL products ship from Qatar
March 23, 2011 - Major milestone: first gas flows from offshore into the Pearl GTL plant in Qatar