Qatar Fuel Additives Company is a joint venture between Industries Qatar, OPIC Middle East Corporation, International Octane LLC, and LCY Middle East Corp. The company started in 1999. Commonly called QAFAC, it produces petrochemicals: methanol and MethylTertiary-Butyl-Ether or MTBE. It says it pursues excellence, preserving the environment and promoting economic growth in the communities where it operates, including efforts to reduce flare emissions.
“Our sustainability-enabled corporate strategy underpins our success as a business today,” says Chairman Sheikh Thani Bin Thamer A-Thani, in the company’s latest sustainability report. “QAFAC is proud to play a role in building long-term sustainable growth in the chemicals sector as well as creating shared value for all our stakeholders.”
In 2021, the company completed the construction and commissioning of the Regenerate Gas Scrubber Unit. QAFAC is now evaluating the unit’s performance. So far, it is more efficient, reducing flare emissions and minimizing natural gas consumption compared to the last several years.
Just what are methanol and MTBE? Methanol is emerging as a top-tier fuel choice for clean and sustainable transportation. It reduces such emissions as NOx, SOx, and particulate matter. Further, it can also be produced from biomass, landfill gas, and CO2. On the other hand, MTBE is widely used as a fuel additive mixed with motor gasoline to reduce tailpipe emissions.
How is your supply chain management improving sustainability and reducing flare emissions?
Supply chain management is critical to QAFAC, adding value at the customer level and, ultimately the bottom line. It optimizes its supply chain operations by reducing related costs, realizing market and economic value, boosting customer service, and achieving competitive advantages by generating positive risk management practices.
It has a strict procurement policy and chooses contractors and suppliers with high social, environmental, and economic standards and practices.
Can you please tell us more about methanol and MTBE?
QAFAC produces methanol and MTBE. Methanol is a clear, water-soluble liquid chemical used to make plastics, LCD TV, adhesives, glues, computer screens, furniture, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fuels, and paints. It is also an energy source — fuel for cars and boats and power for businesses.
It produces methanol from natural gas, supplied by QatarEnergy: “At QAFAC, we produce our Methanol from natural gas supplied by QatarEnergy which is then reacted with steam in the reformer unit to produce the synthesis gas, converting it to methanol through the methanol synthesis reaction,” the company says. “We attain our 99.9% purity by sending our methanol stream to the distillation section of our methanol plant. Our pure methanol is sold or used to produce MTBE at our MTBE plant. Methanol can also be produced from different liquid and solid biomass types such as agricultural residues and farming waste.”
Many say methanol is a renewable fuel. Others say that it has less energy than regular gasoline, and vehicles thus have to use more of it. Therefore, it produces more CO2. QAFAC says that it leads to fewer harmful emissions, evidenced by the fact that it is considered an alternative fuel for ships and vehicles. It points to China, which is trying to replace its fossil-fueled cars with cleaner, burning methane vehicles.
Moreover, “MTBE has a low production cost and good blending characteristics, thus, using it most commonly as an oxygenate to gasoline to improve air quality,” the company says. “Since our products are essential for many industries and many of our daily products, we ensure their alignment to the highest standards of quality, health, safety, and environmental protection, thus, reducing our negative impact at all aspects and at all stages of production.”
How does this affect the company’s greenhouse gas emissions?
The energy sector is getting disrupted — a function of society’s reaction to climate change. But this ensures that other industries adapt and improve infrastructure resilience, reliable power systems, and efficient water use for existing and new energy generation systems.
Like its neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar realizes that the fossil fuels lying beneath its feet are limited — that it, too, must transition to cleaner fuels. Therefore, it will align its pending Climate Change and Sustainability Policies to conform to its employees, partners, and stakeholders.
The first step is resource efficiency or applying the circular economy principles. It points to its Regenerate Gas Scrubber technology, which reduces flare emissions and minimizes natural gas consumption. That led to a 45% reduction in the flaring of off-spec gases.
QAFAC is also committed to diversifying its energy mix. Its goal is to invest in technologies and performance management processes that make its production processes “as green and efficient as possible.” To that end, it is developing energy management practices, noting that its energy use rose slightly between 2020 and 2021: 2%.
“Considering the nature and intrinsic energy potential of hydrocarbons which QAFAC handles, we remain cognizant of the energy considerations and the damaging potential of our raw materials, as well as our finished products,” the company says.
QAFAC says that its policies are aligned with the Paris climate agreement.
Notably, QAFAC has a Carbon Dioxide Recovery unit commissioned in 2014. The unit captures carbon dioxide and converts it to methanol. In 2021, the company captured 175,122 metric tons of CO2.
In 2021, it says there was “no significant difference” in QAFAC’s direct and indirect emissions compared to 2020, also reflected by the stable greenhouse gas intensity figure at 0.67 MTCO2e per ton of production. NOx emissions have fallen by 58% since 2019, although they will rise again this year by 12%.