With the advent of fracking, there can be no question that the United States has enough natural gas to power our vehicles.
Boone Pickens proposed using compressed natural gas (CNG) to power our automobiles so as to cut our use of foreign oil. The major problems with his proposal are the lack of CNG fueling stations and the lack of CNG vehicles being built in the United States.
Some have suggested converting natural gas to liquids (GTL) and then using the liquid fuel to power vehicles in the United States.
Gas to liquids produces a diesel fuel, and diesel cars are not widely used in the United States, so GTL would have limited use here.
The GTL fuel, however, has a higher cetane rating and burns cleaner than traditional diesel oil so there is an advantage to using GTL fuel. With our newly found abundance of natural gas, a case can be made for building a limited number of GTL facilities in the U.S. to produce fuel for our diesel vehicles. The major obstacle is the cost of building GTL plants. Some GTL could be imported from Qatar, though this could adversely affect our balance of payments.
GTL facilities are best built where natural gas is “stranded” in isolated geographic areas. For example, Qatar has the second largest reserves of natural gas in the world, but has no market for natural gas in its immediate area. The only way that Qatar can take full advantage of its natural gas reserves is to build GTL plants to produce fuel for diesel engines and to liquefy natural gas for transport by special LNG ships.
Qatar is doing both.
The fuel produced by GTL is a liquid that can be transported in tankers, the same as oil.
Europe has embraced diesel cars so there should be a market for GTL fuel in Europe.
In fact, Europe would be much better off if it imported GTL fuel from Qatar, rather than trying to use bio-fuels. For example, Europe has promoted palm oil, which has become an environmental disaster as trees are cut down to make room for palm oil plantations.
Of course, Europe won’t embrace GTL because the GTL process emits CO2.
Qatar is building GTL plants and will try to develop a market for its liquid fuel.
It should be noted that GTL and Coal to liquid (CTL) technologies are very similar. Both are proven variations of Fischer-Tropsch technology originally developed in Germany during the 1920s. German Tiger tanks were run during WWII using oil produced from coal.
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