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Small-Scale GTL Technology Seeks Global Flaring Market

An upstart New Jersey-based company with backing from Israel Corp., Primus Green Energy Inc., is poised to market a gas-to-liquid (GTL) solution for flared associated gas in North Dakota and other parts of the globe seeking to harness the wasted offshoot of today's crude oil boom.

Third-party verified demonstration plant results from a site in Hillsborough, NJ, were outlined, along with a flaring application for the technology, on Wednesday by George Boyajian, Primus's vice president for development, at the GTL North America Conference in Houston. Primus claims to have unlocked the economics to small-scale GTL processing.

Aside from the flaring market, for which Boyajian said Primus is still seeking customers in North Dakota and elsewhere, Primus now plans to begin building a commercial-scale plant for making natural gas-derived gasoline at a yet-undisclosed site in the United States later this year.

Primus has a proprietary technology (see Daily GPI, July 12, 2013) called STG+ that Boyajian told NGI's Shale Daily is a "method of combining carbon and hydrogen atoms to make gasoline and other fuel products." And in this case the source of the atoms is relatively cheap natural gas.

The process takes natural gas (CH4, or methane) and combines it with water (H2O), pulling apart the methane molecules to make carbon monoxide and hydrogen which are passed over a series of reactors with catalysts to create a series of hydrocarbon molecules that compose gasoline with water. The gasoline is siphoned off for market and the water is recycled for use in the process.

The technology allows Primus to make small-scale processing work out economically, which Boyajian explains as an ability to make a little more than five gallons of gasoline from each MMBtu of natural gas processed. "That gas is about $2/MMBtu at the wellhead," he said. "So that is $12.50 worth of product [gasoline] produced from $2 worth of raw material [natural gas]. That leaves $10.50 of room to pay for the plant and operating costs."

That margin provides quite an incentive for what he sees as the three main stakeholders in applying the technology to flaring in places such as North Dakota: mineral rights owners who are losing royalties from the unsold gas; regulators who don't want the environmental fallout from flaring; and producers who need to eliminate the flaring to produce the crude oil under the latest gas capture plan requirements (see Shale Daily, June 2).

The plants are modular and have a footprint of less than an acre, Boyajian said. "You build them remotely, truck them to the site and assemble them over a matter of a month," he said. "It is transportable. If someone were to order one today -- keeping in mind the customization to the actual wellsite -- we expect have an average plant built and delivered within a year."

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