Ras Laffan Field Trip, Sunday, 19 January
Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLIC, or simply RLC) is situated 100 km north of Doha, Qatar's capital city. RLC can be described as a small, obscure, coastal industrial city, measuring 20 km long by 14 km wide. Presently, there are a bevy of infrastructure construction projects—mostly in oil, gas, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and power generation—with the total site labour force being 100,000 workers.
Yet small, obscure RLC has put Qatar on the world map because it is a major location where feed gas from Qatar's giant North Field is processed into finished products—mainly LNG, "Sales Gas", treated hydrocarbons liquids, and helium. The North Field is the single, largest "non-associated" natural gas reservoir in the world. With estimated recoverable gas reserves in excess of 900 tscf (trillion standard cubic feet), this prolific field would last 100 years (based on 2010 consumption).
RLC is one of the most viable pieces of real estate in the world. It has distinguished itself as "world capital" of 4 key entities:
- Number 1 producer of LNG in the world - Relevant companies being RasGas, together with elder sister Qatargas. The liquefaction process reduces the original gas volume 600-fold. LNG is produced at temperature - 160C, atmospheric pressure - 1 bara, with the product kept in specially designed insulated storage tanks. By 2008, both companies produced a combined 31 MTPA (million tons per annum) LNG (RasGas 21 MTPA; Qatargas 10 MTPA). By 2010, Qatar would further consolidate its leadership position with projected LNG output 80 MTPA, corresponding to 30% of world LNG demand (RasGas 38 MTPA; Qatargas 42 MTPA).
- Operators of the largest LNG trains in the world - These huge trains, known as "super trains" have a nameplate capacity of 7.8 MTPA each, compared with existing trains of capacities ranging from 3 to 5 MTPA each. There are 6 identical-size super trains—RasGas with 2 (two) super trains-6/7 and Qatargas with 4 (four) super trains-4/5/6/7.
- Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) capital of world - Now, RasGas alone supplies "Sales Gas" from train AKG-1, being one of 2 non-LNG trains called AKG-1/2 (Al-Khaleej Gas-1/2). Essentially, sales gas is "hot", treated, natural gas compared to LNG, which is treated liquefied natural gas. RasGas supplies sales gas to nearby customer Oryx GTL Company which uses the sales gas to make 34,000 b/d (barrels per day), high-purity sulphur-free "syntroleum". Oryx GTL is the only commercial plant of its type in world today, another GTL entity being Shell's 13,000 b/d pilot plant in Bintulu, Malaysia. However, by 2012, Shell's Pearl GTL would enhance Qatar's prestige, with the projected 4-fold size of Oryx, at 140,000 b/d GTL plant at RLC.
- Helium producer: daily capacity 9 t/d (tons per day), equivalent to 3,000 tpa - Helium refining unit, owned jointly by RasGas (70%) and Qatargas (30%), supplies 10% of world demand. In hot climates, such as Qatar's with summer temperatures above 50C, the production of the coldest fluid known as liquefied helium at -268C (minus 268 degrees Celsius) is a remarkable technological feat. To the best of our knowledge, the only other country which recovers helium from its feed gas is Algeria, although, the capacity is unknown. Helium is a rare material used in leak detection, flying balloons, as a coolant in semiconductor industries and nuclear reactors.
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