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Asif Iqbal
The decision to invest in the country's first Gas to Liquid (GTL) plant was laden with risks, but it has turned out to be a profitable venture, former energy minister Abdullah bin Hamad al Attiyah said.
"After the country started producing and exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), South Africa's Sasol approached us with the GTL project. The project required substantial investment and most of my colleagues and experts from the energy ministry were apprehensive about the project," Attiyah said while delivering a lecture at the Georgetown University recently.
Despite some reservations raised by some of his colleagues on the feasibility of the GTL plant, Attiyah said he decided to go ahead with the proposal.
"The project required an investment of $2 billion. Although I gave my go-ahead for the project, I was having sleepless nights when the project started," he said.
"One thing that was always in my mind was that if the project did not yield good returns, I might be sacked... I was very lucky with the decision I made. After three years of operation, we made a profit of $500 million," he said.
Known as the Oryx GTL, the project is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum (51 percent) and Sasol (49 percent) to operate a second-generation GTL complex in Ras Laffan Industrial City. Construction of the facility began in late 2003 and it began producing the final product in January 2007.
Attiyah said the decision to have the GTL plant paid off and today the facility is able to produce 34,000 barrels of liquids (24,000 barrels of GTL diesel, 9,000 barrels of naphtha and 1,000 barrels of liquefied petroleum gas) a day.
Following the success of the Oryx GTL project, Attiyah said Shell decided to put up the largest GTL plant in Qatar with an investment of about $18 billion. He said the project, known as the Pearl GTL, is the biggest investment Shell has ever made anywhere in the world.
"The project was massive in size and during the peak of the construction phase about 70,000 people were working on it," Attiyah said.
The construction of the Pearl GTL was completed on schedule, with the complex starting operations in the first quarter 2011. The full ramp-up was achieved towards the end of 2012.
The Pearl GTL converts 1.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas in a day into 140,000 barrels of petroleum liquids and 120 kilo barrels of oil equivalent into natural gas liquids and ethane.
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