Petroleum Coke to Syngas Plant Could Be Built on Texas Coast

Issue 4 and Volume 105.

Before the year is out, a final decision will be made on building a new plant that would convert petroleum coke, the near valueless leftovers from crude oil after being refined, into synthetic natural gas, then using it in a specially designed 1,000 MW generating facility. The Port of Port Arthur and a new company, Sabine Power I LLC, have announced plans to build the conversion plant and its companion power facility. Sabine Power I would also help create other marketable products such as hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur.

The project is still in the feasibility stage. The cost to construct the facilities, estimated at $1.75 billion, is being weighed against the projected need for additional wholesale electric power with the dawning of a fully deregulated Texas electricity market on January 1, 2002.

The Port of Port Arthur would own the plants and Sabine Power would lease the facilities from the port. Sabine Power’s raw material would come from the refineries lining the region’s coast on the Gulf of Mexico. Refineries distill crude oil into a variety of products, leaving petroleum coke, a product of little value that is generally shipped to a destination in the Mediterranean, more than 5,000 miles from the Texas coast.

Sabine Power would need 7,700 tons of petroleum coke a day to turn the carbon material into a synthetic natural gas. That would account for most of the daily available coke production in the region. Sabine Power’s process could generate as much as 600 million cubic feet of synthetic natural gas, which in turn could generate as much as 1,000 MW of electricity destined for the wholesale electric market.

If the project gets the green light, construction would begin in early 2002 and would take as long as four years.