Moored far out to sea, some 200 kilometres from the nearest land in Australia, Shell's FLNG facility will produce gas from offshore fields and liquefy it onboard by cooling.
The facility, which will be the world’s largest floating offshore facility, chills gas to -162 degrees Celsius and turns it into liquid. It shrinks the gas by 600 times, allowing it to be shipped to towns and cities where energy is needed.
The peak body representing Australia’s oil and gas industry has welcomed Shell Development Australia’s decision to proceed with its Prelude project, which will be the first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility in the world.
Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) Chief Executive, Belinda Robinson, said: “FLNG is a technological innovation of enormous significance. It will enable the development of gas deposits previously considered either too small or too far offshore to be developed commercially.
“FLNG brings many small to mid-sized deepwater fields into play.The industry’s ability to develop these previously stranded resources will deliver substantial economic benefits to this country.
“This development is also likely to prompt more exploration in under-explored but potentially petroleum-rich waters, meaning it could lead to the discovery of more significant oil and gas fields.”
A 2008 CSIRO report estimated Australian stranded gas reserves to be around 140 trillion cubic feet. That is enough to power a city of 1 million people for 2800 years.
Robinson said the development of FLNG in Australia will reinforce Australia’s growing global importance as a gas exporter.
“Australia is already a world-class LNG supplier and we have the most ambitious and most innovative LNG expansion plans of any country in the world,” she said.
“We recently became the first country in the world to develop a coal seam gas-based LNG sector and we are now set to pioneer floating LNG technology.”
The facility which will be constructed in a ship yard in Korea, and will be used to help open up new natural gas fields at sea that are currently considered too costly or difficult to develop.
From bow to stern, Shell’s FLNG facility will be 488 metres – longer than four football fields laid end to end. When fully equipped and with its storage tanks full, it will weigh around 600,000 tonnes – roughly six times as much as the largest aircraft carrier.
This is a gamechanger for the energy industry. The gas will be cooled by cold water pumped from ocean depths. Eight one-metre diameter pipes will extend to about 150m below the ocean’s surface - allowing around 50,000 m3 of cold seawater each hour to cool the gas.
Permanently moored at sea, the facility has been designed to withstand the severest cyclones—those of Category 5.
Engineers built a scale model, eight metres long and weighing 4.5 tonnes, and tested it in tanks in artificial sea conditions. The sheer size of the full-scale facility will help it withstand very high winds and giant waves.
More than 600 people around the world have spent over 1.6 million hours working on different design options. This has never been done before.
Shell will be deploying this revolutionary technology first in Australian waters, where it will add another dimension to Australia’s already vibrant gas industry.
This is a groundbreaking innovation. It will give the energy industry a significant boost to meeting the world’s growing energy demand for the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Shell’s decision to make FLNG a reality culminates more than a decade of research and development.
It builds on the company’s extensive know-how in offshore production, gas liquefaction, LNG shipping, and delivering major projects. It will be the world’s largest offshore floating facility.