Gulf Publishing, Houston, Texas, sponsored recently the annual forum on gas to liquid technology. The Conference was held from July 30th to July 31, at the Norris Conference Center in Houston. Sometimes people make the mistake of saying that gas to liquid (GTL) means something like turning natural gas into liquid methane. WRONG. It actually means converting gas into liquid fuel, like gasoline.
The conference had an interesting cross-section of presenters. Primarily the speakers were from the big oil companies like Exxon-Mobil, or independent inventors with a product to push, or a small startup running mostly on venture capital (see slide show).
Most of the technology is based on an ancient practice called Fischer–Tropsch. Yet I left the forum a bit bewildered: if the USA has so much available technology for turning natural gas into gasoline, then why is the USA sending all that shale gas to flare? That is free gas going up in smoke that could be used to lower gasoline prices and electricity bills, not to mention that all this flaring is polluting the air and creating more green house gases like CO2.
People tell me that it's ok to flare methane because its clean burning. WRONG. The shale gas flaring can be seen from outer space. If methane is burning cleanly, you can't see the flame. It's when you can see the flame, that burning is not clean.