37 XTL Plants in Operation; More Under Construction

37 XTL Plants in Operation; More Under Construction

Stratas Advisors
Feb 15, 2017

This excerpt is from a report that is available to subscribers of Stratas Advisors’ Global Refining & Products and Global Syngas services.

As of January 2017, 37 ‘XTL’ liquid fuels facilities are operating. This includes a number of pilot-scale facilities that still remain intermittently operational. Of the 37, 27 are operational commercial-scale units, including 15 at nameplate capacities greater than 5,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (b/d).

Major operators include Shell, Sasol, Chevron, Qatar Petroleum, PetroSA, Shenhua Group, Synfuels China, Yitai Group, and Yanzhou Coal Mining. All of these major ventures own/operate XTL facilities producing in excess of 10,000 b/d.

South Africa

The South African refiner Sasol has been producing hydrocarbon fuels and specialty products from coal-derived synthesis gas at Secunda and Sasolburg, South Africa, since 1955. The company’s combined XTL capacity amounts to 164,000 b/d. Sasol has connected a natural gas pipeline between central Mozambique and Sasolburg, where the imported gas is added to the coal feedstock to produce chemicals and diesel.

During first-half 2012 Sasol announced expansion of coal mines and added the “Thubelisha” shaft at the Twistdraai colliery in Mpumalanga, South Africa. With the new shaft, the life of the Twistdraai colliery is expected to be extended beyond 2039.

In addition, the PetroSA 36,000 b/d GTL facility at Mossel Bay, South Africa, has the capacity to produce 45,000 b/d of fuels and specialty products from offshore gas and condensate. Owned and operated by PetroSA (Petroleum Oil and Gas Corp. of South Africa Ltd.), the plant has been operating since 1993. The Mossgas plant receives natural gas and condensate from gas fields in Mossel Bay through a pair of 56-mile (91-km) pipelines. The facility also has the ability to process up to 8,000 b/d of imported condensate. 

South Africa has a large conventional oil refining industry. Its conventional refined products are sold in the local market and some are exported, mainly to other parts of southern Africa. However, there is no significant export of GTL products from South Africa. Sasol reports that 40% of South African liquid fuel needs are supplied from the Sasol and Mossgas operations (28% from coal and 12% from gas).


Shell International Gas Ltd. has been producing GTL fuels, waxes and lubricants at its Bintulu plant in Sarawak, Malaysia, since 1993, with a two-and-a-half year hiatus following an explosion in late 1997. The Bintulu complex converts 140 million scf of natural gas per day, piped onshore from the South China Sea, into 14,700 b/d of fuels and specialty products. The project is a joint venture involving Shell Gas Holdings (Malaysia), Petroliam Nasional Bhd. (Petronas), Diamond Gas Holdings (a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp.) and the Sarawak government.

The last debottlenecking project was undertaken in May 2003 to enhance plant capacity by nearly 20%. Currently, the plant is capable of producing middle distillates, detergents, feedstocks, solvents, drilling base fluids, waxes and waxy raffinate. Waxes and chemicals constitute 60% of the product mix while 40% is middle distillates. About 10% of the GTL product is a waxy raffinate used as feedstock for high-quality lubricant base stocks.

The Bintulu plant also makes naphtha, kerosene, gasoil, linear paraffins, solvents and waxes. The raffinate is exported to refineries in Japan and France where it is further processed into base oil for use in premium motor oils. The GTL diesel fuel produced at Bintulu is the source for the GTL diesel component in Shell Pura, V-Power, Diesel 2004 and other products sold in markets and market tests worldwide.


A joint venture between Qatar Petroleum (51%) and Sasol (49%), Oryx GTL is located at Ras Laffan Industrial City. The 34,000 b/d capacity plant was completed in June 2006. In a September 2016, report utilization rates were 81% in the months from January through July 2016. The facility is supplied with 330,000 cubic feet per day of lean methane-rich gas from the Qatar North gas field, producing 34,000 b/d of liquids (12,150 b/d of diesel, 12,150 b/d of kerosene, 6,490 b/d of naphtha, and 1,610 b/d of LPG). The products are mainly sold to customers in the Persian Gulf, Europe and Asia.

Among the most recent GTL projects, Pearl GTL is the world’s largest XTL facility. It produces 140,000 b/d of GTL projects and processes 120,000 b/d of condensate from Qatar’s North Field. The project was announced in October 2003; in July 2004, Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Shell GTL signed a development and production-sharing agreement that provides fiscal and legal terms for the Pearl GTL plant. This onshore GTL plant at Ras Laffan came online during 2012. The production slate at Pearl is reportedly 61,600 b/d of diesel, 23,800 b/d kerosene, 35,000 b/d of naphtha, 5,600 b/d of LPG and 14,000 b/d of off-spec diesel. The integrated gas and GTL plant also produces 30,000 b/d of base oils. In 2014, Shell began selling natural gas-derived premium lube oils in the United States, exclusively produced at the Pearl facility.

As of 2017, Pearl GTL is the largest and most complex GTL project, adding nearly 10% to Shell’s total production worldwide. The project involved a development cost of $19 billion and was 100% funded by Shell, though Qatar Petroleum retains a 50% carried interest. During 2013, jet fuel from Pearl GTL received approval for use by Qatar Airways commercial airlines at Doha International airport.


Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), together with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC), brought online the 34,000 b/d GTL plant in Escravos, Nigeria, in 2015. The cost estimate for the project soared four-fold since first announced in 1998 to nearly $10 billion. The project is jointly owned by CNL (75%), Sasol (10%) and the NNPC (15%). The plant’s capacity could be expanded to 120,000 b/d within 10 years. Escravos GTL (EGTL) is the first project under the Sasol Chevron collaboration. Sasol Chevron has worked on the design and development and provided management, operating and technical services to the project owners. Chevron markets products from EGTL internationally. Europe is the primary market for the clean GTL diesel and naphtha from the plant, although some products may be sold in the US.

The EGTL project converts more than 325 million scf of natural gas per day to 22,500 b/d of GTL diesel, 10,500 b/d of naphtha and 1,000 b/d of LPG. The GTL plant is located adjacent to the existing Escravos Gas Plant – Phase 1. In April 2005, CNL awarded an engineering, procurement and construction contract totaling US$1.7 billion for the Escravos GTL project to Team JKS, a consortium composed of JGC Corp. of Japan, KBR and Snamprogetti.


Both ExxonMobil and Haldor Topsoe have multiple commercial applications of methanol-to-gasoline technology operational in China. This includes applications for Shanxi Luan Mining Group, Shanxi Jincheng Group, Shenhua Group, Yitai Group, Yunnan Pioneer Chemical and Zhejiang Xingxing New Energy Technology. The smallest of these is about 2,000 b/d, while Inner Mongolia Yitai operates a 25,000 b/d unit. Instead of traditional Fischer-Tropsch technology to convert syngas to liquid fuels, MTG integrates a methanol synthesis unit and a methanol-to-gasoline conversion unit that yields gasoline very close to high-quality spec gasoline and with minimal required end processing. ExxonMobil first demonstrated the MTG process in New Zealand in the 1980’s.

Synfuels China is a significant contributor to China-based CTL technology using Fischer-Tropsch conversion. The company is building the Shenhua Ningxia project under an agreement with Shenhua Group. The 100,000 b/d facility involves 24 dry feed gasifiers, 10 Linde air separation units and Synfuels China FT technology, consisting of two trains and eight reactors. As of October 2015, the plant was 85% complete, and is believed to ramp-up commissioning activities in 1Q 2017.

Projects Under Construction

Multiple projects producing liquid fuels using alternative conversion processes, including gasification, are under construction. These include one in Canada, a completion of a mothballed facility in Trinidad, construction of two facilities in Turkmenistan, and construction of up to 15 projects in China, consisting of five methanol-to-gasoline units and 10 Fischer-Tropsch development units.

Trinidad and Tobago: In March 2016, NiQuan Energy was confirmed as the preferred buyer for the unfinished World GTL plant in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad. A reported $3.3 billion has thus far been spent on the project, including $2.5 billion and the remainder interest. The plant, which was under a robust asset preservation program, is 85% complete. Once online, the facility is projected to have a nameplate capacity of 2,500 b/d.

Turkmenistan: An April 2016 update by the Turkmenistan government revealed plans to move forward with a second GTL plant to be built at Ovadan-Depe, near the country’s capital city of Ashgabat. The project broke ground in May with a foundation ceremony. The facility will process 3.7 billion cubic meters per year of natural gas to produce 1.1 million tonnes per year of diesel and more than 400,000 tonnes per year of straight-run gasoline. A consortium of South Korean firms, including Hyundai Engineering and LG International Corp., along with Japan’s Itochu Corp., will build the project. Anticipated online date is 2022.

China: Combined under construction/advanced design nameplate capacity is assessed at 526,883 b/d. With an assumption that some advanced design facilities will not be constructed based on utilization rates, the assumed adjusted nameplate capacity projection is 368,818 b/d for a production rate of approximately 206,538 b/d of incremental addition to 2022.