Drawing Jet A From A Stone
Shell is betting $19 billion that it can pull natural gas from shale rocks and then convert that gas into diesel fuels, including a Jet A product for aircraft. A facility the company is building in Qatar will reportedly become the world's largest gas-to-liquid plant and could establish technology that would be used on a smaller scale in the U.S. The U.S. has become one of the largest in the world producers of natural gas through the development of shale fields. And the abundance of natural gas derived from those efforts has helped drive down the cost of natural gas versus oil. The price gap could mean that even with costs added through processing, liquid fuel products derived from natural gas would be competitive or even a favorable alternative when compared with traditional oil. But Shell may be looking for something else, too.
In an interview in London, Marvin Odum, who heads Shell in the Americas, said that the gas-to-liquid technology could be used on a smaller scale in the U.S., if capital costs can be reduced, BusinessWeek.com reported. That comment may refer to technological advances that would reduce costs, but also sounds similar to language used by companies seeking federal monetary assistance. The Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook (large PDF) predicts that shale gas will make up 47 percent of total U.S. production by 2035. In its natural form, natural gas offers low energy density and high transportation costs. But Shell believes that through conversion natural gas can offer high-quality products that will be competitive in the transportation fuels market. For more, see Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (large PDF).