In recent years, small-scale gas-to-liquids (GTL) facilities have played a critical role in helping operators monetize stranded shale gas reserves.

The term “stranded” typically refers to reserves that are located in remote locations where pipeline infrastructure needed to carry gas to midstream processing facilities does not exist. In such cases, small-scale GTL facilities can be advantageous, as they allow operators to convert natural gas to synthetic transportation fuels (i.e., gasoline, diesel) and other in-demand products such as base oils, solvents, and waxes.

Because they are utilized in remote areas, small-scale GTL facilities are often constructed modularly, which minimizes onsite construction time. Modularity also provides a number of additional benefits, including increased flexibility (i.e., ability to handle a wide range of feed gas compositions) and the capability to quickly and cost-effectively add modules in the event that capacity needs to be increased. Facilities are generally designed for as much as 15,000 bbl/d of liquid fuels production, which requires a feed rate of roughly 150,000 MMBtu of gas per day.

In addition to helping operators avoid the penalties associated with flaring, small-scale GTL facilities allow producers to monetize gas reserves that have long been considered uneconomical to exploit. In the coming years, the implementation of these facilities is expected to increase, as the vast majority of the world’s known gas fields are unable to justify mega-scale GTL plants, which can cost as much as $20 billion to develop (source: American Oil and Gas Reporter).