Recently announced plans to build a plant in Louisiana to produce gas-to-liquids (GTL) transportation fuels and other products confirm that a GTL strategy “is the country’s best approach for energy independence,” according to Santa Barbara, CA-based Carbon Sciences Inc., the developer of a technology used to make gasoline and other transportation fuels from natural gas and carbon dioxide (CO2).

“The main challenge in using this readily available resource is that natural gas cannot be pumped directly into our existing vehicles,” said Carbon Sciences CEO Byron Elton. “However, with GTL technology America’s vast reserves of natural gas can be converted into liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, which can be used directly in our cars, ships and planes. We believe that the proposed GTL facility in Louisiana is a step in the right direction for the U.S. and the world.”

South Africa-based Sasol last week said it has chosen Calcasieu Parish in southwestern Louisiana as the site for a GTL facility, which it said would be the first plant in the United States to produce GTL transportation fuels and other products (see Daily GPI, Sept. 14). The company said it would conduct a feasibility study over the next 18 months to consider two options: a two million ton per year and a four million ton per year facility. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2013 and be completed in 2018.

The Sasol project would entail an estimated capital investment of $8-10 billion, create nearly 5,000 jobs and “represent a huge new source of demand for natural gas in Louisiana, which would benefit the Haynesville Shale and other natural gas plays here,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Last December Sasol announced plans for what it claimed would be the world’s first ethylene tetramerization unit, also to be built in Calcasieu Parish.

With its abundant unconventional natural gas reserves, the United States has “all the elements” that would make a GTL project successful, Royal Dutch Shell plc CEO Peter Voser said earlier this year (see Daily GPI, July 29). In March Shell said natural gas had begun flowing through a subsea pipeline offshore Qatar into Pearl GTL, the largest GTL plant ever built (see Daily GPI, March 25). The Pearl project uses a Fischer-Tropsch process that was developed before World War II and later modified by Sasol to allow the production of high-grade fuel from coal.

Carbon Sciences technology is aimed at reducing the cost of GTL fuels by lowering the cost of reforming natural gas into synthetic gas, Elton said. Because the technology consumes CO2, “we not only make liquid fuels derived from natural gas cost-effective, but we also make them cleaner and greener,” he said.

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