Shell builds world's biggest floating object

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Shell's announced that it's to go ahead with plans to build the world's largest floating object ever, a platform designed to exploit offshore natural gas fields.

The Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) project, moored some 200 kilometres offshore from Australia, will produce gas from offshore fields and liquefy it onboard by cooling it to minus 162 degrees Celcius.

Construction will now begin at a shipyard in South Korea.

From bow to stern, the FLNG facility will be 488 metres long. When fully equipped, and with its storage tanks full, it will weigh around 600,000 tonnes – around six times as much as the largest aircraft carrier. Some 260,000 tonnes of steel will be used.

"Our innovative FLNG technology will allow us to develop offshore gas fields that otherwise would be too costly to develop,” says Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s Executive Director, Upstream International.

"FLNG technology is an exciting innovation, complementary to onshore LNG, which can help accelerate the development of gas resources."

In an industry first, liquid natural gas will be transported by ship straight from the plant to the customer, rather than being liquefied at a land-based plant. The company says the facility has been designed to withstand the severest cyclones - those of Category 5.

The facility is expected to go into production in around 2017 at the Prelude gas field. It expects to harvest some 110,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The FLNG facility will stay permanently moored at the Prelude gas field for 25 years, after which it may be moved elsewhere.