Qatar Airways ambitious new plan to erect a $19 billion Pearl project that will be the largest gas-to-liquids plant in the world, is receiving massive praise and optimism over its future success. The President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Roberto Kobeh González said at the recent climate event COP18 in Doha that the project could revolutionize air travel and alternative energy efforts.
“We really welcome this project as an example of the varying biofuel solutions that can be applied in different areas around the globe,” stressed Kobeh in Doha as he detailed the ICAO’s status updates for the aviation industry on energy. Qatar has the largest per capita carbon footprint in the world.
“The Qatar project is notable in that it is State-backed and employs resources natural to the surroundings. These do not depend on arable land vital to food consumption,” Kobeh added.
Royal Dutch Shell said in November that the Qatar plant is to pump airline fuel made from natural gas from its gas-to-liquids plant near Qatar Airways’ Doha International Airport, which is to open in 2013 and has received much fanfare from airline industry executives.
A top American airline executive told Green Prophet that the North American carriers are optimistic that if Qatar can develop the natural gas industry for planes, it could translate into reducing overall costs for US carriers.
“We have seen prices rise dramatically in recent years because of the overall price hikes in oil and this endeavor is very curious for us here in the US,” the executive said on condition of anonymity as they did not want to speak to a competitor’s potential advantage. “Natural gas gives much more energy for less and if successful, this could see airlines able to travel similar distances using much less fuel.”
The Pearl project will process around three billion barrels of oil-equivalent over its lifespan, Shell added in a statement in October discussing the project some 80 kilometers north of Doha.
The plant currently produces 120,000 barrels of the liquified natural gas and ethane.
In his statement in Doha, Kobeh said that alternative fuels are a vital aspect of the ICAO strategy as it seeks to meet responsibilities and realize a sustainable future for international civil aviation.
“Commercial flights on sustainable alternative fuels are now a reality,” he noted. “Airlines are using drop-in biofuels that do not require changes to aircraft design or fuel delivery systems. Facilitating the availability of such fuels at competitive prices and in sufficient quantities for use in aviation is the next challenge, one for which an ICAO expert group is currently developing global policies.”
Still, the distance versus oil that can be reduced by switching to natural gas cannot be underestimated.
Qatar Airways believes that by moving in this direction prices for customers – their main focus – will remain stagnant, which means that as oil prices are expected to continue to rise, Qatar Airways may be able to avoid such hikes in ticket pricing.
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