Shell has unveiled plans to build the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) platform. The 600,000-tonne behemoth – the world’s biggest “ship” – will be sited off the coast of Australia. But how will it work?
Deep beneath the world’s oceans are huge reservoirs of natural gas. Some are hundreds or thousands of miles from land, or from the nearest pipeline.
Tapping into these “stranded gas” resources has been impossible – until now.
At Samsung Heavy Industries’ shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea, work is about to start on a “ship” that, when finished and fully loaded, will weigh 600,000 tonnes. That is six times as much as the biggest US aircraft carrier.
By 2017 the vessel should be anchored off the north coast of Australia, where it will be used to harvest natural gas from Shell’s Prelude field.
Once the gas is on board, it will be cooled until it liquefies and stored in vast tanks at -161C.
Every six or seven days a huge tanker will dock beside the platform and load up enough fuel to heat a city the size of London for a week.
The tankers will then sail to Japan, China, Korea or Thailand to offload their cargo…
Johan Hedstrom, an energy analyst in Australia with Southern Cross Equities, told the BBC: “The FLNG concept is an elegant solution because you don’t need so much fixed infrastructure…
Mr Gilmour said Shell had to overcome a “raft of technical challenges”, ensuring for example that the vast amount of equipment on board would work in choppy seas.
The Prelude field is in the middle of what is known as “cyclone alley”, an area prone to extremely stormy weather. But Mr Gilmour said the vessel had been built to withstand category-five cyclones and even a “one-in-10,000-years’ storm” producing 300km/h (185mph) gusts and 20m-high (65ft) waves.
The double-hulled vessel is designed to last 50 years.
When the Prelude field is exhausted, in 25 years’ time, it will be completely refurbished and packed off to start work on another field off the coast of Australia, Angola, Venezuela or wherever.
RTFA for the details of this amazing floating factory. Hopefully, Discovery of one of their peers will produce a documentary on the construction and early days.
Looking forward to following the adventure. As much as I support alternatives to fossil fuel, natural gas is still an essential natural resource for native and export use for many nations.