GTL plant misses startup goal

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

KENAI (AP) -- BP Exploration Alaska Inc.'s gas-to-liquid plant in Nikiski failed to meet its startup goal, but officials aren't worried.

BP had wanted the $86 million plant to produce its first barrel of synthetic fuel by April. But the plant fell prey to the normal pitfalls any new startup might encounter.

BP now is hopeful the plant will produce its first barrel within a month.

Steve Fortune, GTL engineering manager, said falling off schedule was to be expected.

''It's been the normal things that you find on plant startup,'' Fortune said. ''Getting instrumentation to read correctly, tuning our controllers. We're just getting to the point where we're going to do a plant startup this week. Hopefully, in the next few weeks we'll be at a point where we may have some product.''

GTL project manager Paul Richards said the time line for being able to go to market with the new fuel will be longer, though.

''It's going to take six to 12 months to be able to go commercial,'' Richards said.

Fortune said completing the building took longer than anticipated. Things really got going in June, he said.

''Most of the main pieces of machinery have been operating for the past few months,'' he said. ''We're quite comfortable that the plant will operate quite safely.''

BP began construction of the plant in January 2000 with the primary intention of turning natural gas into synthetic fuels.

The GTL plant will operate for five years because of its experimental nature, and in the meantime, would test new energy technologies BP has developed.

Among those new technological advances planned for experimentation at the plant is a solid oxide fuel cell unit that will take run-off steam the plant creates and use it to generate electricity to operate the entire facility.

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