MUSCAT, SEPT 11 – Oman LNG, the nation’s gas liquefaction flagship, is weighing a major debottlenecking of its Qalhat plant – a move that could potentially boost its LNG output by 1.5 million tonnes per year (tpy), according to a news report published by the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES). The weekly newsletter, focusing on Middle East Oil & Gas, among other topics, quoted Oman’s Minister of Oil & Gas, Dr Mohammed bin Hamed al Rumhy (pictured), as stating that a “serious increase” in majority-government owned Oman LNG’s output is in the works once the plant is suitably debottlenecked.
Debottlenecking is defined as the process of pinpointing specific areas in plant equipment or the workflow configuration that limits the flow of product in any refining or petrochemical plant. By optimising plant operations, overall capacity can be ramped up, experts say. “There are two ideas that we have,” the MEES report quoted Dr Al Rumhy as saying. “One is to go to Oman LNG’s three trains and see if there is any opportunity to debottleneck there. The team is working on it and there is a small opportunity that we think could be realised before end-2019 to another half-a-million tons with just some easy fixes.”
“The other idea is to debottleneck using some more serious hardware over two years’ time, so by 2021 we could maybe add another million tons. Overall there is another 1.5mn tons per year to be realised, hopefully. So that’s the easy one. Within 18-24 months or maximum 30 months we could have a serious increase in that case,” he further stated. Oman LNG currently operates three LNG trains with a total nameplate capacity of 10.4 million tons per year.
However, for want of adequate supply of natural gas as feedstock for the plant — gas supply being prioritised to the power and water sector and other critical end-users — Oman LNG has been operating at only around 80 per cent (or thereabouts) of its nameplate capacity for several years.
Starting from last September, however, gas supplies to the plant were ramped up to meet its full capacity following the successful launch of BP Khazzan’s tight gas development in central Oman.
The additional supplies of gas also made possible the signing of a landmark Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) between Oman LNG and BP Singapore Pte Ltd. Under the SPA, which covers a seven-year period starting from January 2018, Oman LNG will provide 1.1 million tonnes per annum of LNG to BP Singapore — which is equivalent to approximately 18 LNG cargoes annually.
In the interview, Dr Al Rumhy —who is also Chairman of Oman LNG’s Board of Directors — voiced optimism that LNG output from the plant is expected to be better than usual this year as well.
“I think exit production could exceed 10m tonnes. Especially with strong supplies in December, after summer when more gas is allocated towards domestic consumption. So December will be a good month to send more gas to Oman LNG,” he said
Asked if the recent gas discovery at Mabrouk NE, announced earlier this year by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), had changed the ministry’s outlook of gas, Dr Al Rumhy stated: “Oh yes, of course and we anticipate new projects that will take that gas. Some of the more mature fields are showing declines, so we need to take new findings into account to replace losses elsewhere. The gas future looks very promising, which is a nice problem to have.”
However, any gas supplies from Mabrouk NE are unlikely anytime soon, as “it would take at least 3-4 years before they can start to take the gas”, the minister noted.
Earlier this year, Oman LNG announced significant investments in the upgrade of its Qalhat complex. The company is installing a new power 120 MW power plant to replace an existing gas turbine plant — a move designed to reduce fuel gas consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.