Shell’s Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) Technology and Opportunities in Energy Transition | AIChE

Shell’s Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) Technology and Opportunities in Energy Transition


Shell's gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology converts natural gas – the cleanest-burning fossil fuel – into high-quality liquid products that would otherwise be made from crude oil. These products include transport fuels, motor oils, process oils and the ingredients for everyday necessities like detergents and cosmetics. GTL products are colorless, odorless and contain almost none of the impurities (sulphur, aromatics and nitrogen) that are found in crude oil.

Shell has deployed its GTL technology in two world-scale commercial plants in Malaysia (Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis) and in Qatar (Pearl GTL, which is the world’s largest GTL plant). Shell has invested more than $1 billion and filed over 3,500 patents in developing the gas-to-liquids process and continues with developments to make GTL technology more affordable, more competitive and more energy efficient.

GTL technology could be an enabler for making low-carbon products, such as low-carbon aviation fuel, low-carbon diesel for heavy-duty applications, low-carbon chemicals and specialties, by weaving into the GTL process (intermittent) green hydrogen and CO2 as feedstock.

In such “Hybrid GTL” concepts, (intermittent) green hydrogen is utilized during the “day” when renewable power is available, while natural gas is utilized during the “night”, like in classical GTL. This eliminates a need for costly large-scale storage (in form of battery or hydrogen storage), which is required for PTL (power-to-liquids). Natural gas becomes a way of addressing intermittency of renewables in Hybrid GTL. Compared to PTL, the green element of a Hybrid GTL plant is much more flexible, making such concepts more affordable and fitting in well with intermittent renewable power or intermittent green hydrogen.

Sources of CO2 could include CO2-rich off-gases from internal recycles, external point sources and air capture. Building blocks for converting CO2 to CO include reverse water gas shift, CO2 electrolysis, dry reforming and methanation followed by partial oxidation of methane.

As a transition path from today’s solutions based on natural gas to fully decarbonized (PTL) solutions on a longer term, Hybrid GTL is one of the elements in the mosaic of solutions in Energy Transition with a potential for early deployment.


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