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Gas to Gasoline in New Zealand


"New Zealand has meager petroleum reserves but is rich in natural gas. In 1980, New Zealand Synfuels Corporation hired Bechtel to build a plant to exploit this abundant resource, in Waitara on the nation’s Northern Island. It was the first of its kind—namely, the first commercial facility to produce high-octane gasoline from natural gas.

The project posed formidable problems in engineering, logistics, and construction. New Zea­land’s strict codes required de­sign appraisal and inspection by no less than Lloyd’s of London, and coordination between 20 New Zealand national and local agencies.

Initial plans called for con­ventional construction methods. But because of a shortfall of craft labor during the construc­tion period, Bechtel decided that modularization of a portion of the facility was necessary to meet the delivery date. Hitachi-Zosen constructed the modules, 76 in all. They weighed up to 650 tons apiece and were shipped to New Zealand on special heavy-lift ships. On arrival, the modules were transported 24 kilometers to the plant site by special vehicles. The operation constituted one of the largest overland transport programs ever attempted.

Geotechnical issues had to be addressed as well. For example, the job site was susceptible to liquefaction during an earthquake. To compensate, 500 wells were sunk, 25 meters deep, and the underlying water pumped out.

Completed on schedule in 1985, the plant could produce about 14,500 barrels of gasoline per day, the only commercial facility in the world capable of converting natural gas into gaso­line. For New Zealand, this meant less reliance on petroleum imports, without harming the environment"

from Page 8 of  "Bechtel Briefs" January 1998