Shell has floated the 488-metre-long hull of its Prelude FLNG facility out of the dry dock in Geoje, South Korea, where it is being built.
Once constructed, Prelude will be the largest floating structure ever built and will be permanently moored about 200km from the West Australian coast during its 25 years of production.
The facility will fill ocean carriers with gas ready for export from the sea, eliminating the need for gas pipelines and onshore processing facilities.
Prelude is expected to produce 3.6 million tonnes per annum of LNG, as well as volumes of condensate and liquefied petroleum gas.
That amounts to the equivalent of 110,000 barrels of oil per day in natural gas.
The new technology means the company will be able to access gas resources previously regarded as “stranded”, with the process being touted as the potential saviour of the LNG industry as high costs continue to hamstring onshore projects.
Shell’s projects and technology director Matthias Bichsel said turning FLNG into a reality was no “simple feat”.
He said floating the Prelude hull was testament to a great team, especially as first steel was only cut 12 months ago.
“A project of this complexity – both in size and ingenuity – harnesses the best of engineering, design, manufacturing and supply chain expertise from around the world,” Bichsel said.
Prelude asset manager, Jim Marshall, said the project was progressing as planned, with first gas expected in 2016.
Shell said the facility will remain onsite during all weather events, and has been designed to withstand a category 5 cyclone.
Construction of the vessel will require around 26,000 tonnes of steel, 2000 km of pipework and 220,000 km of cabling.
Shell has said there would about 350 people working on Prelude by 2017 and 650 indirect jobs, with the project set to inject $45 billion to the Australian economy over its lifetime
Santos and GDF Suez are also looking into the development of a FLNG vessel for the Bonaparte Basin, 250 kilometres west of Darwin. A final investment decision is expected in mid-2015.
While BHP and ExxonMobil have been granted Federal approval for a massive floating LNG plant off the West Australian coast near Exmouth, a project worth $10 billion.
Prelude Fast Facts:
The Prelude FLNG hull is longer than four soccer fields laid end to end and it is longer than the Empire State Building is tall.
The LNG storage tanks have a capacity equivalent to approximately 175 Olympic swimming pools.
Once complete, the FLNG facility will weigh more than 600,000 tonnes fully loaded, displacing the same amount of water as six of the world’s largest aircraft carriers.
Whilst the Prelude facility is big it is also small – taking up 1/4 the area of an equivalent onshore LNG plant.