Materials, extraction | Technology & innovation

New way of monetizing Russia’s huge natural gas reserves

18 Mar '15
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor

As the global hydrocarbon reserves are getting increasingly hard to reach and recover, and conventional crude faces ever-growing rivalry not only from natural gas but also from shale hydrocarbons, Russian innovation companies step up their efforts in a bid to blaze a trail with their high-tech alternative solutions. One of these we’ll briefly talk about today is a resident of the Skolkovo innovation hub outside Moscow and works to offer petrochemical companies new and potentially disruptive technology.

NGT-Sintez, a four-year-old R&D and technology testing company and part of the New Gas Technologies umbrella group of companies, is pushing its Metaforming technology.

The project aims to offer a critical new method of producing BTX—a mixture of the most essential aromatic hydrocarbons, including benzene, toluene and xylene—directly from natural gas or any synthesis gas (syn-gas), using no oil.

Aromatic hydrocarbons, also known as arenes, provide a key raw material for modern petrochemical sites; experts indicate the growing demand for the BTX family around the globe. So far, oil has been used to produce the materials.

However, the world’s largest and most accessible oil fields are getting gradually depleted. Russian oil producers have to move further away to the far-flung areas of East Siberia and to the Arctic shelf. A ton of oil is now at least four times costlier to produce than that of gas.

NGT-Sintez emphasizes “the lack of solutions for the production of petrochemicals from natural gas and coal.”

Its own solution, designated MTA (methanol-to-aromatics), offers a way of producing BTX from syn-gas (including coal synthesis gas) or methanol. The Russian company claims its “unique” catalysts ensure a conversion rate of more than 80%.

In the new approach, waste gas resulting from aromatic hydrocarbons synthesis is not squandered but rather recycled to replenish a company’s syn-gas and methanol reserves, thus feeding unceasing BTX production at a fairly low cost.

In addition to an estimated 40% increase in a thermal efficiency factor and a 17% rise in end product output, NGT-Sintez believes its MTA technology ensures a 20% drop in CAPEX and OPEX compared to the techniques known today, such as MTO (methanol-to-olefins) widely used by, for example, Honeywell’s UOP, or MTG (methanol-to-gasoline) employed by Exxon Mobil.

NGT-Sintez develops its technology as an alternative—and potentially advantageous—way of monetizing Russia’s huge natural gas reserves. It could be much better than betting on liquefied natural gas (LNG), a strategy that Russia’s Gazprom natural gas giant pursues.
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