A Forbes online columnist is touting gas-to-liquids, or converting natural gas to a fuel that can power trucks and planes, as a potential solution to higher gasoline prices.
Ken Silverstein said although the conversion process is expensive, the end result is a higher quality diesel or jet fuel than that produced by oil refineries.
South Africa’s Sasol and Shell Oil are both looking at the economics of building multibillion-dollar facilities in Louisiana.
One key is whether the United States has a century’s worth of shale gas reserves and whether pollution concerns from hydraulic fracturing can be addressed. If the supply exists, the economics could make sense.
Shell spent around $18 billion to build its gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar. But the company expects to earn $6 billion a year from the facility with oil at $70 a barrel.
Oil prices are now around $115.
Those prices have encouraged exploration and production companies to target oil shales, Silverstein says. Increasing domestic oil production could also make gasoline supplies cheaper.