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August 01, 2003 --- Vol. 9, No. 75August 2003

Syncrude Production Begins at Alaska Demonstration Plant

BPs gas-to-liquids demonstration plant in Nikiski has begun production of synthetic crude oil, the company said Aug. 1. Current production is about 100 barrels per day and is ramping up to approximately 250 barrels per day.

BP said first production on July 26 represented a significant milestone for BP and Davy Process Technology, partners in the new technologies being tested at the plant. Successful demonstration of these technologies will offer significant improvements in the commercial viability of the GTL process, the company said.

GTL technology is used to convert methane gas into high-quality, clean-burning synthetic crude oil, BP said, and could play an important role in commercializing stranded natural gas resources.

BP began permitting for the Nikiski GTL demonstration plant in 2000. Construction proceeded through 2001. Mechanical completion was in May of 2002, BP spokesman Dave MacDowell told Petroleum News Aug. 1.

Warm up of individual components at the plant began last year, and syngas, the first step in the process, was produced earlier this year, testing BP's design for the compact reformer, which chemically alters natural gas and produces syngas. BP's compact reformer is about a quarter the size of technology currently in use. The compact reformer is one of two pieces of proprietary technology the demonstration plant is designed to test and prove up, MacDowell said.

The second proprietary technology is in the next step, where syngas is chemically changed to a waxy hydrocarbon in the Fischer Tropsch conversion process. BP is using a proprietary converter catalyst in that step, MacDowell said.

The demonstration plant is a learning facility, MacDowell said, and BP's "plan is to run it for the time we think it will take to prove up our technology." That time is estimated at 12 to 18 months.

He also said: "It wouldn't surprise me at all if over the weeks and months ahead if we bring the plant down and back up several times to help us learn more about the technology."

Editor's note: See story in Aug. 10 issue of Petroleum News.

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