Kommersant, 21.06.2013

Russia, being the leader in oil production, keeps the first place in the world in atmosphere pollution as well. According to different estimates, every year in our country there are up to 25 bln cubic meters of associated petroleum gas (APG) being burned in so-called flares. There could be no so close attention of Russian petroleum companies to this problem if the government had not been taken administrative measures enforcing gas utilization during last few years. But until recent times there existed no profitable technologies for APG processing on small fields.

Experts agree that the most complex problem is to get gas processing up and running on low and medium remote fields, where there is a lack of possibilities to carry out the products of APG processing. High expenditures involved in utilization projects are to make APG processing with its complexicated transportation unprofitable and drop profitability of oil production.

"This problem hardly may be solved on a national scale with the use of the conventional techniques, – say market experts from the cluster of energy-efficient technologies of Skolkovo Foundation. – Formerly, the maximum of oilers’ efforts – was gas processing to generate electric power with simultaneous isolation of the fat component and dry gas (methane). But it was all about the problem of logistics: if there was no large deposit on-site then product transportation is very unprofitable. Only a new innovative engineering solution could be an outgate”.

Such solution was offered to the market by the Russian engineers from “Gazohim Techno” company, who became the residents of the Skolkovo Foundation and were awarded the grant to build a first low-tonnage associated petroleum gas processing plant. Having invested $5 mln in this unique project the Foundation opened the doors to the future before it.

At the first stage, there is obtained from associated petroleum gas so-called synthesis gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) with the help of a process that was developed by “Gazohim Techno” in collaboration with Scientific Research Front-End Engineering Design Interregional Institute of Nitrogen Industry and Laboratory of Catalysis of Institute of Organic Chemistry. This synthesis gas then is fed to an inlet of a microchannel reactor where synthetic liquid hydrocarbons are formed.

The “Gazohim Techno” company’s system to fully stifle flares by succeeding conversion of natural and associated gas to synthetic oil and mixing it up with mineral oil incurs minimum investments. Synthetic oil can be transported via already existing pipelines, and relatively light weight of the plant makes it possible to efficiently commercialize small and remote from gas-transportation network fields. Saving oilers from paying penalties for gas flaring, the “Gazohim Techno” company’s processing system, to say a little more, allows to “monetize” this small resources. It is possible with the use of GTL (gas-to-liquids) technologies to obtain high quality motor fuel from synthetic oil.

“Moreover, extraction of APG and synthetic oil itself are not taxable", — says the founder of “Gazohim Techno” company, candidate of chemical sciences Sergey Dolinskiy. The engineers of “Gazohim Techno” has also developed a technology of synthetic oil processing, which allows to obtain the maximum amount of liquefied high-molecular synthetic hydrocarbons (liquid and solid paraffins, ceresins, and others) that are significantly more pure than that products obtained from oil feed. Such cost-efficient solution is suitable for those oil and oil-and-gas companies, which have the possibilities to carry marketable products out for further realization.

Nowadays, “Gazohim Techno” designs such plant with processing capacity of 10 mln cubic meters of gas a year and negotiates with all national oil companies. Besides the grant of the cluster of energy-efficient technologies of Skolkovo Foundation, the project is also financed by private investors (approximately $15 mln). If this plant is located in the North of the country then there will be the need for additional investments – up to $20 mln, but the plant location has not been finalized yet.

After the launch of the pilot plant next year the company plans to pass on to the phase of scaling –a plant with processing capacity of 40-200 mln cubic meters of gas a year. In the future such plants are planned by “Gazohim Techno” to be offered for operation on production platforms on offshore fields.

Previously, GTL technologies were actively developed in the countries which experienced problems with producing or buying oil (Germany, South Africa), but these technologies were not widely used throughout the world. In the last few years it is observed throughout the world a new surge of interest in technologies of that kind that was mainly caused by low costs of shale gas and large amounts of fat components, which can be obtained when processing associated petroleum gas. Today approximately ten companies worldwide seriously labour at GTL technologies, and in Russia, besides “Gazohim Techno”, there are a few players with more or less similar technologies based on plasma and other kinds of synthesis. But projects of these companies are mainly on early phases, so one could hardly imagine that they are able to create working, well-tried technologies in a short time. And, according to expert evaluation, even a number of successful companies won’t be able to quickly satisfy a demand of Russian oil industry for GTL plants of small and medium capacity. "That’s why we hope that successful realization of the “Gazohim Techno” company’s project will become the breakthrough in the segment of oil and gas production and positive example for all Russian developers. And in the huge market of national oil fields there’s enough room for everyone", — was noted in the cluster of energy-efficient technologies of Skolkovo Foundation.

Lyaysan Yumaguzina