Turkmenistan, the country that holds the world’s fifth largest natural gas reserves, is nearing completion of constructing its first gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant, which is expected to process natural gas to liquid fuel, or gasoline, in the town of Ovadan Depe, near the country’s capital of Ashgabat.
“Construction of the world’s first plant for the industrial production of gasoline from natural gas in the south of Turkmenistan is 96 percent complete,” Orient News Agency cited Myratgeldi Meredov, a deputy prime minister in charge of the fuel and energy complex. The gas-to-gasoline technology will allow the synthesis of liquid hydrocarbons.
More than 5,000 specialists from foreign companies and provinces within the country had already tested auxiliary equipment at the plant, including water treatment plants, coolers, steam boilers, as well as air distribution and industrial water utilization systems. Once operational, the plant will process 1.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas and produce 600,000 tons of A-92, or Euro-5 standard gasoline per year.
In 2014, Turkmenistan’s Turkmengas, Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Turkey’s Ronesans Endustri Tesisleri signed a $1.7 billion contract to build a major plant for processing natural gas to liquid fuel or gasoline in the Turkmen province of Ahal. Construction began the following year. The project is sponsored by Japan Bank for International Co-operation, which is covering 85 percent of the total costs. According to the agreement, Kawasaki is serving as the project’s manager, while Renaissance is overseeing civil engineering work and equipment assembly.
Turkmenistan has sovereignty over what are some of the world’s largest natural gas deposits. Proved natural gas reserves are said to be slightly over 7.5 trillion cubic meters (tcm) according to U.S. government figures. Currently, Turkmengas is developing about 30 gas and gas condensate deposits. By 2030, the company plans to produce 230 bcm of gas per year.
Meanwhile, Turkmenistan has never had much luck selling its gas worldwide. Russia and Iran left Turkmenistan over a pricing dispute several years ago and have not returned, leaving China as the only major importer of gas from Turkmenistan and making the Caspian country highly vulnerable to a single customer.
Officials in Ashgabat say the launch of the plant in Ahal province will help strengthen the country’s economy, through diversifying markets for hydrocarbon resources.
A second stage of the complex is yet to be developed. In 2016, Turkmenistan Ministry of Oil and Gas announced that the facility will be able to process 3.7 bcm of natural gas into 1,100,000 tons of diesel fuel as well as more than 400,000 tons of straight-run gasoline (naphtha), per year. The $3.9 billion contract to build that plant was signed by Turkmengas, LG International, and Hyundai Engineering Co. Authorities in Ashgabat had already held a ground-breaking ceremony for the project, although it is unclear how far construction has advanced.
Late last year Turkmenistan unveiled a urea plant in the western city of Garabogaz, which is expected to produce 2,000 tonnes per day of ammonia and 3,500 tonnes per day of urea. The facility was constructed in accordance with the $1.5 billion contract signed by Turkmengas, Turkey’s Gap Insaat and Japan’s Mitsubishi.