Synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuels can be produced from natural gas by a gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion process that consists of the following three major steps:
- Natural gas is partially oxidized with air to produce synthetic gas (syngas).
- The synthetic gas is reacted in a Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) reactor to polymerize it into liquid hydrocarbons of various carbon-chain lengths.
- The heavy fraction of the F-T products is separated and cracked back to transportation fuels in a hydrocracking reactor.
The F-T process produces a hydrocarbon mixture with a range of molecular weight components by reacting hydrogen and carbon monoxide in the presence of a catalyst. The primary product of the GTL process is a low sulfur, low aromatic, high cetane diesel fuel.