Shell’s Huge Prelude FLNG Hull Launched

New Wave Media

December 10, 2013

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The hull of Shell's Prelude was floated in South Korea. When construction is complete, Prelude will be the largest floating facility ever created, weighing more than 600 thousand tons. It will be moored off Northwest Australia for natural gas production at Shell’s Prelude field beginning in 2017, and will operate for 25 years off Australia.

The area where the Prelude FLNG will operate at the Browse Basin has a yearly cyclone season from November to April, but the Prelude has been designed to withstand such conditions. It is hoped the facility will be able to produce enough gas to power a medium sized city. The Prelude FLNG cannot strictly be described as a ship as it needs to be towed to its destination rather than travelling under its own power. Shell refers to its FLNG platform as a "facility" rather than a ship because of this fact. Shell has not disclosed how much the vessel will cost, but industry analysts believe that it would be likely to command a price of between US$10 billion and US$12 billion.

The Prelude FLNG is being built at the Samsung Heavy Industries' shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea. 600 engineers worked on the facility’s design options. Engineers worked over 1.6 million man-hours for the front-end engineering and design (FEED) phase of development for the Prelude FLNG Project. The Prelude FLNG facility will be 488 meters (1,600 feet) long and 74 meters (240-feet) wide. 6, 700 horsepower thrusters will be used to position the facility, which has DP capability. A 93 meters (105 feet) high turret runs through the facility, which is secured to the seabed at a depth of 250 meters by mooring lines. 50 million liters of cold water will be drawn from the ocean every hour to help cool the natural gas. The double-hulled vessel is designed to last 50 years and was designed to withstand category-five cyclones and even a storm producing 300km/h (185mph) gusts and 20meter high (65ft) waves.

Once fully completed and after topside integration the “facility” will be towed to the Prelude field, which is located 200km from the spectacularly beautiful Kimberley Coast in Western Australia. Environmentalists have complained and campaigned against the FLNG due to concerns over gas leaks and gas flaring, along with potential damage that could be caused to the underwater environment and to the Kimberly Coast in general if there is a major spill or gas leak. The Australian government said it would tax carbon emissions from major polluters at A$23 per ton. According to Shell, developing the gas at the location of the gas field will reduce impact on sensitive coastal habitats as the FLNG avoids the need for shoreline pipe crossings, dredging and jetty works. Product carriers will be far from coastal reefs or whale migration routes.

Once aboard, the gas will be cooled until it liquefies and then stored in vast tanks at -162 degrees celsius. Every six or seven days a tanker will dock beside the platform and load up enough fuel to heat a large city for a week. The tankers will then sail to Japan, China, Korea or Thailand to offload their cargo. When operational, the Prelude FLNG facility will produce at least 5.3 million tons per annum (mtpa) of liquids: 3.6 mtpa of LNG, 1.3 mtpa of condensate (equivalent to 35,000 bbl/d) and 0.4 mtpa of LPG. The Prelude FLNG is the first of what is expected to be multiple Shell FLNG projects and Shell said it had already started work on an even bigger facility.

Shell Australia is also working with universities and education providers to build expertise and capacity in Western Australia to support Prelude FLNG project. Through a multi-million dollar partnership with The University of Western Australia, Shell is funding a new chair at UWA’s Energy and Minerals Institute to improve research and education in offshore engineering. Leading geotechnical professor, David White, has taken up the new position as the Shell EMI Chair in Offshore Engineering. He will be supported by two Associate Professors and three sponsored PhD scholarships funded by Shell Australia. The Global FLNG Training Consortium in Western Australia is a partnership between Shell, The Challenger Institute and Curtin University. A multi-year training program under development will train FLNG technicians in Western Australia. Since the FID, Shell has welcomed three joint venture partners to the project – INPEX (17.5%), KOGAS (10%) and CPC Taiwan (5%).

Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.
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