Pearl GTL is looking to ramp up production to full capacity shortly, said managing director Wael Sawan.
Once fully operational, Pearl GTL will produce 1.6bn cubic feet of gas per day from the North Field, which will be processed to deliver 120,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids (NGLs) such as condensate, LPG and ethane and 140,000 barrels per day of GTL products using Shell’s unique technological and project management capabilities.
“This is the level we are aiming to reach in any single day. That’s essentially the capacity we have agreed with Qatar Petroleum,” Sawan said in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times.
There are two production units (trains) at Pearl GTL, a Qatar Petroleum-Royal Dutch Shell joint venture at Ras Laffan.
“Since 2002, when we took the first steps on Pearl GTL, we have come a long way. Pearl GTL is one of the largest projects not only for Qatar but also for Shell, and more generally, for the global oil and gas industry,” Sawan said.
He said that over the past decade, the world-scale project at Ras Laffan, had gone from the initial commercial phase including the heads of agreement followed by a production sharing agreement through to a five-year construction period and the commissioning, which started last year.
At the peak of construction at Pearl GTL, the project employed 52,000 workers, with major construction completed in 2010, said Sawan, also Qatar Shell chairman.
The plant started up in March 2011 when gas began flowing from offshore wells into the onshore complex. Pearl GTL, which employs Shell proprietary technology, sold the first commercial cargo of high-quality gasoil in June 2011.
“Its dimensions are massive,” said Sawan while listing out the project’s key characteristics. “Everything from the scale of technology deployed - we have some 3,500 patents that have been used in the project to the scale of the equipment - at some point we were building the equivalent of 2.5 Eiffel Towers a month, to the single largest oxygen plant built anywhere in the world at 28,800tpd. At all levels, this is a huge project.
“We are very proud of where we have got into…technology has been proven to work – in the last one and a half years since start up…now we are moving one step at a time to full capacity in a prudent and safe way.”
Pearl GTL is already producing a number of high-quality GTL products for sale in oil product markets around the world including: GTL gasoil, a cleaner-burning diesel-type automotive fuel; GTL base oils for premium lubricants; and GTL naphtha, a high-paraffin feedstock for the petrochemical industry.
Sawan took over as executive vice president, chairman of Qatar Shell and managing director for the Pearl GTL project, on April 1. He is responsible for leading all Shell activities in Qatar. Besides the flagship $18bn Pearl gas to liquids (GTL) project, these consist of Qatargas 4, the LNG joint venture between QP (70%) and Shell (30%).
QP and Shell are also working on a petrochemical complex at Ras Laffan.
Holding dual Lebanese/Canadian nationality, Sawan graduated with a master’s in chemical engineering from McGill University in Canada and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Sawan started his Shell career as a project engineer in Oman in 1997 and progressed through the organisation with leadership roles in Shell’s exploration and production division, gas and power business as well as the global downstream business with various international assignments including in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.