Global experts promote MTBE usage at QAFAC workshop

Qatar: Thursday, April 25 - 2013 @ 14:43

Oxygenates has been use as a safe, efficient and cost-effective way to reduce the levels of harmful gasoline components and improve gasoline combustion. The factual data showed that oxygenates lower tailpipe emissions level from gasoline powered vehicles and provided a number of important environmental benefits:
• increased the oxygen content in gasoline—allowing for more complete fuel combustion
• reduced carbon monoxide emissions especially during the winter months
• reduced smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the summertime
• reduced air toxic emissions year round.

Held under the Patronage of H.E. Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, Minister of Energy and Industry, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Managing Director of Qatar Petroleum, and organised by Qatar Fuel Additives Company (QAFAC) – the leading producer and exporter of Methanol and MTBE in Qatar – the one-day workshop was well-attended by leading experts and oil and gas industry stakeholders from Qatar, the region and across the world.

In his welcome remarks at the event, Mr Hamad Rashid Al-Mohannadi, Vice Chairman of Qatar Petroleum Board of Directors, Chairman of Qatar Fuel Additives Company Limited (QAFAC), and Chief Executive Officer of RasGas Company Limited thanked H.E. Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada for his patronage of the event, and gave a background on why MTBE is today the most commonly used oxygenate all over the world.

“The elimination of leaded gasoline is an immense accomplishment and will be remembered as one of the major environmental achievements of the past few decades – a historic feat indeed for the global community,” Mr Al-Mohannadi said. “As the quest for a suitable replacement for lead began, the pursuit of new octane enhancers that at the same time reduces toxic emissions became the topmost priority.

“Since then, MTBE has become an intelligent choice. A convenient, technologically-advanced and economical oxygenate alternative that is easy-to-blend, cost-effective, and is essentially a drop-in blending component for refineries,” he added. “Undoubtedly, one of the simplest, quickest and most cost-effective ways to produce cleaner air is to use cleaner fuel. Thus, MTBE is today the most commonly used oxygenate all over the world.”

Mr Al-Mohannadi further stated that: “As the domestic and regional gasoline market continues to grow, and with the construction of a new gasoline refinery at Ras Laffan Industrial City, MTBE has an important role to play in the production of gasoline that meets the Euro 5 standards. With the steadily growing demand for MTBE, QAFAC is working together with QP in exploring the possibilities of expanding our MTBE production in Mesaieed and Ras Laffan.”

For his part, Mr Nasser Jeham Al-Kuwari, General Manager of QAFAC welcomed all participants at the event in his opening speech. He also talked about QAFAC’s vision of being a major producer of Methanol and MTBE, with a high priority in promoting safe and environment-friendly production, storage, handling and usage of these products.

“Following our exceptional performance in 2012 and looking forward to an even better 2013, we strongly believe that a platform for the comprehensive discussion of MTBE such as the QAFAC MTBE Workshop: Clean Fuel, Clean Air is essential, not just for the region, but also globally,” Mr Al-Kuwari said. “It is paramount that all stakeholders must better understand MTBE and maximize its benefits in today’s environment-conscious society.”

Before the formal start of the discussions, Mr Khalid Al-Hitmi, Plant Manager of QAFAC gave an overview about the company, its achievements and its vision of being amongst the top five producers of methanol, its high value derivatives and Butane sub products as well as MTBE by 2020.

“QAFAC is one of the first companies to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment or EIA, is the biggest reformer in terms of number of tubes, currently constructing the biggest CO2 recovery plant in the region, and the first to adapt the wash oil system in reactor outlet in MTBE process,” Mr Al-Hitmi said as he also explained QAFAC’s MTBE production and storage process.

During the workshop, as global experts one by one talked about the benefits and advantages of MTBE, Dr. Graeme Wallace, Director General, The European Fuel Oxygenates Association (EFOA) indicated in his presentation that MTBE characteristics include a high octane rating and low volatility that enables substitution of other octane components such as aromatics, improved air quality, and compatibility with gasoline.

Additionally, Mr Clarence Woo, Executive Director, Asian Clean Fuels Association (ACFA), said in his presentation that MTBE has never been classified as toxic or carcinogenic by any regulatory body anywhere in the world.

“It is a safe and beneficial gasoline component,” said Mr Woo. “Significantly, tighter vehicle emission standards and fuel quality legislation will support MTBE’s long term viability and sustainability in Asia’s fuels landscape.”

Mr Woo further indicated that the European Union conducted a three-year MTBE risk assessment based on 20+ years of European MTBE usage and research from which they concluded that MTBE is a safe and beneficial gasoline component.

“All these reputable bodies – the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Union, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Research Council, and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment of the State of California – have found no sufficiently compelling reason to classify MTBE as a possible cancer-causing agent for humans,” Mr Woo added.

Meanwhile, Mr Alex Leong, Vice President for Business Development, Asia and for Safety, Health & Environment, Asia – AECOM, discussed about the importance of design, construction, technology and care of underground storage tanks (UST) for petroleum products with MTBE as one of its components.

Citing previous studies, Mr. Leong said during his presentation that: “Petroleum products entered groundwater through UST systems that had construction or operational deficiencies. As such, better UST management reduced potential of petroleum product leakage and minimized chances of groundwater contamination. Additionally, adoption of Maryland Regulations further enhances prevention efforts and safeguards the environment.”

Discussing about how MTBE, as an oxygenate rose and fell and rose again, Mr Robert McBean, Executive Chairman, Wentworth Resources Ltd., who also happened to be a former Managing Director of QAFAC, narrated in his presentation that prior to the US Clean Air Act of 1990, MTBE’s primary use was gasoline blending to enhance octane.

“The Clean Air Act created a demand for oxygenated gasoline,” Mr McBean said. “As MTBE emerged as the oxygenate of choice, QAFAC made the decision to believe in the science and not the politics. Today, the rest of the world still believes in the science and demand growth continues outside of North America.”

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Thursday, April 25- 2013 @ 14:43 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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