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Qatar – Marjo Louw, President

11.08.2014 / Energyboardroom

The president of Sasol Qatar discusses the flagship Oryx GTL project, his hopes for Sasol’s future in Qatar, and what makes an economically attractive GTL project.


ORYX GTL is a very important project, both for Sasol and Qatar, for a number of reasons. How has Sasol’s experience in Qatar been, and how do you feel about the country today?

Our partnership is based in solid foundation: The Qatar National Vision 2030 designed by the previous Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, put forward a plan to diversify natural resources in Qatar and GTL was identified as one of the opportunities. With the foresight of His Excellency Al-Attiyah, who was the Minister of Industry and Energy at the time, the agenda to diversify was pursued and it aligned well with Sasol’s strategy. A combination of factors such as progressive and supportive leadership, abundance of feedstock, a national commitment to human resource development and a business-conducive environment attracted Sasol to Qatar.

The words ‘richly blessed’ come immediately to mind: we have found Qatar Petroleum to be a great joint venture partner, and I have been personally involved in joint ventures in a number of countries – for me this is a delightful experience. A joint venture is very much like getting married: you sleep in the same bed but you have different dreams. In this case, our dreams are sufficiently similar to want to have the same success.

ORYX GTL has now been in operation for almost seven years. It is very successful, financially and technologically: the plant often operates above design capacity, with limited downtime. The success is supported by a strong safety record outperforming teams from around the world to win two prestigious Sasol awards.

ORYX GTL was honored in 2013 as the Sasol Badger Safety Team of the Year and Sasol Badger Production Team of the Year. Six Sasol Badger Team awards are awarded annually to Sasol teams, subsidiaries and Joint Ventures from around the world, competing for these special honors. They also subsequently received national awards in Qatar during 2014 for amongst others, Safety, Road to Zero Harm and sustainability reporting.

With a focused and dedicated effort from every employee, in August 2012 ORYX GTL became only the second Qatari company in history to achieve a Zero Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR). Two weeks later, ORYX GTL reached another safety milestone of 10,000,000 man-hours without any recordable incidents or lost work days.

In conclusion, we are pleased with our project here: it really is a flagship for us. We often have visitors to Qatar, wanting to have a personal look atat the ORYX GTL plant as an example of a successful technology and business. 

What room is there within the ORYX GTL joint venture for Sasol to introduce new technologies and innovations to boost the plant’s efficiency and capacity?

Sasol is a company with innovation in its DNA. Sasol has been a frontrunner in technological innovation and excellence since our inception in the 1950s. For over 60 years, Sasol have developed and commercialized innovative energy-related technologies, first with coal as a feedstock, then with gas and, into the future, with renewable energy sources.

As market needs and expectations have changed, services and products have developed to reflect the spirit of the age and the needs of the day. To deliver the fundamental understanding and technical opportunities to safeguard the group’s sustainable growth and profitable operation, Sasol is continually ensuring that the research facilities and systems are of the highest standards.  Currently, Sasol’s strong intellectual property portfolio includes in excess of 500 registered patent families.

The spirit of innovation that has powered Sasol’s business extends from the technological core to all aspects of managing a sustainable business. So whether it is innovating to improve the efficiency of the foundation businesses, and thereby to manage the environmental footprint, or how Sasol manages the other resources on which the business depends – capital, people, society – an innovative approach that works in practice is Sasol’s hallmark.

We classify the improvement work that can be done at ORYX GTL as organic growth. As the technology provider in the joint venture, Sasol provides strong input, through interactions with the successful management team of ORYX GTL, in order to find the operational sweet spot: maximizing the production of the highest quality products.

We have also introduced a slightly modified version of the main catalyst used in the Fischer-Tropsch process, and we are progressively working towards the creation of new generation catalysts that will provide even better economic and productivity benefits. Making sure the combination of technologies that work together to complete the gas-to-liquid process are running as productively and consistently as possible is a major goal for Sasol. Our experience in Qatar has been invaluable in other projects around the world in this regard.

After reaching the point where the ORYX GTL plant can consistently operate at more than 105 percent of design capacity, growth will become somewhat limited that begs the question, what next? There is currently a moratorium on the allocation of more natural gas to support new projects from Qatar’s North field, and all the gas committed. Despite this, we still believe that Qatar will be a good option for future projects subject to project feasibility and resources.

How do Sasol and its partners assess the financial viability of a new build GTL project?

One should not compare the economics of importing crude or LNG versus GTL, as they operate in different areas of the market. Crude oil has a production cost per barrel dependent on the location of its extraction, and refined products are dependent on that initial crude production cost, cost of logistic and refinery costs. Some countries have even considered using imported LNG to supply to GTL plants, but in the current markets, it is not a competitive option.

In the specific case of Qatar, given for access to abundant gas and the possibility to build integrated facilities, the economics should be positive. In general, GTL options are influenced by a countries energy balance, access to either a local market with strong demand for refined products, or with good access to export markets, such as Qatar. There are other markets around the world where this is the case, including the USA, Australia, Canada and some African countries,  each has to be assessed for its merits, and planned according to our global portfolio of ongoing projects and available resources.

As with any successful technology, there is often more interest than what is economically feasible.

What work is Sasol doing to address the issues of Qatarization and environmental sustainability?

Sasol is a company committed to the communities in which we operate. Our initiatives are aligned to support the Qatar National Vision 2030 and include a variety of social, educational, entrepreneurial and environmental initiatives. For example, in 2012 we launched a program to empower and highlight the abilities of people with special needs, called ‘Definitely Able’ which has brought world-class sports and cultural performances to Qatar.

Additionally, we are actively involved in supporting environmental issues. In partnership with Friends of the Environment Center Qatar we have recently launched an educational environmental electronic application called “Qatar e-Nature” that can be downloaded free of charge on all smart phones and tablets platforms; Qatar e-Nature will bring the wealth of Qatar’s nature such as flora, bird and insect life to the palm of your hand and hopefully increase the level of interest and awareness. In April 2013, during the QP Environmental Fair, we hosted an international theatrical play that emphasized the importance of recycling to young people. These are just few examples of our investment in the community here in Qatar, a market to which we are committed for the long term.

ORYX GTL is also at the forefront of successful Qatarisation and won a prestigious award in Qatar for its initiatives to appoint, train and educate Qataris, moving toward the governments’ ambition.

What are your perspectives on the future of Sasol in Qatar?

The energy sector in Qatar is expanding and the Qatari Government is continuously evaluating diversification of the use of carbon molecules to maximize value. Accordingly, there is a continued approach to diversify into petrochemicals. It is our understanding that the moratorium on the increase of gas from the North Field will only be evaluated by 2015 or later, if more gas is released or if there is additional gas found, an increase in gas production can be expected, leading toward further diversification and projects.

Sasol continues to look for opportunities to collaborate more within Qatar and elsewhere for the benefit of the economy and in contribution to the Qatar National Vision. We would welcome a further GTL project in Qatar, for the reasons already explained: a first-class partnership between Sasol and QP, a great location and market situation, and finally, the possibility to integrate any new facilities into the existing ORYX GTL plant and business.


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