And that is a tall order in a land that has virtually no sweet water, and is already facing strong water stress!
Qatar went from a poor pearl-fishing country to one of the most ground-breaking economies in the world, in less than half a century. The small peninsula harnessed its gigantic natural resources as the main motor of its development. Today, Qatar is negotiating a delicate turn between phase 1 and phase 2 : going from a booming, yet single-sourced economy, to a more diversified, long-lasting and developed one.
The consequences of such a transition should not be underestimated. Though it might not happen by next week, it seems clear that the world will one day move away from fossil fuel. The world's resources are large, and we still have many more gas and oil fields to discover, but they are not infinite. In addition, basing our economy on fossil fuel has ecological and social implications more and more countries are sensitive to, around the world. In other words, simply plundering resources as if there were no tomorrow would lead to a short-lived streak of prosperity. In the end it would lead to falling back into poverty. The goal of booming economies such as Qatar is therefore to use this economic ladder as well as possible, to structure its economy in the long run. But for that, it must become one of the world's most sophisticated industrial fuel producers. That's where Pearl GTL comes in.
Having oil and gas is easy. Even extracting it and selling is rather simple. Nigeria, for instance, produces oil, and yet has to import its fuel, as it has no refining capacity. Mastering the entire resource management process is therefore the key to using natural resources as a development means.
This process is very complex, and Qatar has entered the world of truly powerful oil-producing countries, with the Pearl GTL project. Shell was called upon to help Qatar Petroleum (QP) design, implement and run the immense production plant. Pearl GTL encompasses all stages of the gas process, from the offshore production, to turning it into liquid form and shipping it out. Shell sold its first cargo of GTL gasoil, a clean type of fuel in June of 2011, while the plant was still ramping up its production.
The compound is designed to issue, at full production capacity, 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day, from the gigantic North field, which is thought to contain 900 trillion. A 19-billion dollar investment and up to 52 000 construction workers were necessary to reach such a high-level of performance. Construction was decided upon, when the volume of the field was appraised. The presence of natural gas was detected in the 1970s, but it was 15 years and as many appraisal drills later, that the field was revealed to contain 10 % of the world's known resources. Only Russia and Iran have larger resources, and Qatar therefore intends to use the exploitation as leverage to develop its booming economy.
QP and Shell chose to seize the opportunity to meet high levels of ecological responsibility, and burden themselves with thorough green standards. They chose to reach out to the ZLD bar : Zero Liquid Discharge. Aware of water's scarcity in the region, and of such facilities' pollution potential, the plant was designed so that not a drop of polluted wastewater would end up contaminating water outside the fence. A complex hydraulic circuit, made of 20 different processing steps, 8 water intake points, 12 water streams and 5 different types of water was set up. Few companies in the world are capable of delivering such levels of engineering. The consortium therefore called upon Veolia Water, the world leader in water management, desalination and engineering, as a guarantee for quality. Veolia Water seized the opportunity to demonstrate its unique capabilities, and consolidate its presence in the Persian Gulf, where it often intervenes. Veolia Water has been producing a large-scale effort to provide solutions in demanding environments, such as the Persian Gulf, where water management is a key part of regional development. In allowing Pearl GTL to reach a zero water-impact level, it has helped place Qatar as one of the regional leaders in the gas production business.
Exploiting natural resource is within reach of many nations in the world. But it is the way out of misery just as much as the way into it. In some African countries, such as Nigeria, natural resource extraction has caused enormous damage to the soil, air and water. That, in turn, has dire economic consequences, such as the destruction of the fishing and farming activity. This highlights what a poisonous gift these resources can be. They should bring prosperity on the land but, poorly managed, they will harm more than they will serve. Of course, proper exploitation of these resources is a lot more expensive, more difficult and within reach of only a handful of tip-of-the-sword companies. But with industrial projects such as Pearl GTL, countries have a unique opportunity to harness their god-given resources and bring their homeland to a new economical level, long-lastingly.