WA turns spotlight on FLNG safety

A parliamentary inquiry into the safety of floating LNG (FLNG) processing plants is underway in Western Australia this week, with submissions from Conocophillips, the Australian Workers Union, and Esso Australia heard yesterday.

The Economics and Industry Standing Committee has undertaken to investigate the measures taken by project proponents to ensure the safety of workers on FLNG facilities, particularly in relation to extreme weather events and emergency evacuation preparedness, as well as the role and responsibilities and preparedness of the state and federal governments in relation to FLNG emergency situations.

On Monday Conocophillips presented evidence assuring the WA government of modern design features included in FLNG facilities such as the Prelude, which is owned by Shell and currently under construction in South Korea.

The written submission by Conocophillips stated that new FLNG facilities include 10,000 year survival conditions as a design basis for extreme weather events such as cyclones, with facility strength, fatigue and mooring capability to withstand metocean forces associated with category 5 cyclones.

Conocophillips also said safety of personnel extends beyond design features, with extensive training of staff and crew for operational and emergency needs.

“Conocophillips believes that FLNG emergency situation are not substantially different to other potential emergencies Australia currently faces in the offshore oil and gas industry and maritime industry,” the submission read.

“The role and responsibilities of the state and federal governments as currently defined are relevant and appropriate.”

Tomorrow’s hearing will see evidence presented by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority and Shell Australia.

Last week the Maritime Union of Australia said that the safety of such vessels is untested, “as there are no such facilities operating anywhere in the world,” and as such was not covered by existing international and national safety regulations, the MUA submission read.

“By way of example, existing regulations do not cover cryogenic risk within the process modules of proposed FLNG.

“On this basis alone the MUA opposes FLNG.”

The MUA submission also cited research presented at the LNG 17 Conference in Houston, USA, which raised significant safety risks with FLNG, which presents new challenges in terms of the combinations of complex processes, including hazardous process fluids and the harsh marine environment, as well as the reduced working footprint of a floating vessel compared to an onshore facility.

The paper by Jerome Hocquet said the largest FLNG facilities would typically be one sixth of the size of an onshore plant of the same capacity.