Published July 2003
Proven world natural gas reserves, which currently represent about 83% of the energy equivalence of proven oil reserves, have been growing at a faster rate. In some remote locations, wellhead costs of "stranded" natural gas have been estimated to be below $0.25/MMBtu, while the cost of reinjecting "associated" gas from crude oil production as an alternative to flaring may greatly exceed its value.
Since most of world's gas reserves are in the form of relatively small fields which would be inadequate for world scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) production capacities, interest is also increasing in new chemical and fuel grade methanol production technologies which may be viable at lower production capacities. With 25% of world gas reserves located offshore, of particular interest would be methanol production technologies which would be barge mountable - such as on floating production, storage, and off-loading vessels (FPSOs) which are finding increased use in the development of oil fields in remote deep water tracts with no alternative economical outlet for any associated gas.
The focus of this review is methanol production via ICI's (Synetix) new "compact" reformer technology as mounted on an FPSO. Although an air separation unit is required, their compact reformer unit appears to result in a major reduction in overall plot space requirements relative to conventional methanol processes as well as other GTL production technologies. Minimizing the plot space requirement is an essential element in the economic feasibility of such applications.