Shell Prelude: The First Floating Liquified Natural Gas (FLNG) Platform
Prelude FLNG is the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas platform, due to be completed in 2017. The Prelude is being built by Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea for Royal Dutch Shell oil and gas corporation. It is 488 metres (1,601 ft) long, 74 metres (243 ft) wide, and utilizes more than 260,000 tonnes of steel, making it the largest offshore facility ever constructed. In operation, it would weigh more than 600,000 tonnes; more than five times the weight of the largest aircraft carrier. As an FLNG plant, the Prelude handles all the processes involved in capturing, processing, and storing liquid natural gas. Each year, 2.9 million tons of natural gas will be extracted from wells and liquified (by chilling it to –162°C) before being offloaded onto smaller ships that bring it back to the mainland. By removing the need for long pipelines to land-based LNG processing plants, FLNGs are predicted to ultimately reduce costs. The Prelude FLNG system will be used in the Prelude and Concerto gas fields in the Browse Basin off the coast of Australia, where it will remain for about 25 years. As Damon Lavrinc notes in Wired, due to the area’s turbulent seas, the system, using a 305-foot-tall turret that runs through the ship and into the seafloor, is also designed to withstand Category 5 hurricanes. Despite the costs of mounting such a massive project, however, FLNG is considered by many industry experts to be a “game-changer” as unconventional oil and gas begin to rapidly replace conventional fossil fuels as the world’s predominant energy source.