LNG has long been the primary route to the development and utilization of natural gas resources remote from major markets. More recently, considerable research has been devoted to alternative pathways for converting static gas into other transportable and higher value liquid forms. These include both ‘indirect routes’ as typified by Fischer-Tropsch chemistry, as well as so-called ‘direct’ approaches involving catalytic redox reactions, etc. Most of the ongoing research related to the latter approach is at the exploratory stage while first generation technology utilizing the ‘indirect’ approach has advanced to semi-works and initial commercial plants. Second generation ‘indirect’ technologies are now emerging4f which Exxon's AGC-21 process is a forerunner. This new process features unique, new reactor and catalyst technology for synthesis gas generation and hydrocarbon synthesis and can produce a variety of hydrocarbon liquids ranging from a high quality refinery feedstock to finished fuel and specialty products. Further enhancement of AGC-21 plus improvements in other second generation technologies and advances in ‘direct’ approaches are anticipated to provide additional, new attractive paths to the utilization of remote gas reserves.
Natural gas is a clean-burning hydrocarbon fuel which is efficiently used in homes, industries, and electric power generation. It is relatively abundant and readily transportable by pipeline to population centers within economic reach of natural gas reserves. However, it is costly to transport in gaseous or liquefied form when reserves are remote from user-customers. In fact, about half of the 140 Tm3 (4900 trillion cubic feet (TCF)) of proven natural gas reserves' are distant from any sizeable market and uneconomic to develop at current prices. 2. REMOTE NATURAL GAS RESERVES Remote or static natural gas is distributed around the world in diverse locationsdeserts, deep water, and arctic environments. Figure 1 displays a current assessment of these reserves by geographical area. As used in this paper, the term ‘remote’ refers to reserves that are distant from a market and not readily accessible by pipeline for economic or technical reasons. The FSU and Middle East hold the largest reserves as shown by the bars in the figure.
For reference, one TCF of gas is equivalent t