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Shell moving forward with Floating LNG project

Graphic of Prelude FLNG. Click to enlarge.

The Board of Royal Dutch Shell plc has made the final investment decision on the Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) Project in Australia (100% Shell); Shell will now start detailed design and construction of what will be the world’s first FLNG facility. (Earlier post.) Moored some 200 kilometers offshore Australia, the FLNG facility will produce gas from offshore fields and liquefy it onboard.

Gas resources are found all over the world in remote offshore accumulations that are too costly or difficult to develop. In Australian waters alone there is an estimated 140 trillion cubic feet of such stranded gas, according to a 2008 report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Shell FLNG technology will make it feasible to develop such resources, since it reduces both the cost and environmental footprint of their development.

Having the gas-processing and gas-liquefaction facility located at the site of an offshore field removes the need for: gas-compression platforms; long subsea pipelines to shore; near-shore works, such as dredging and jetty construction; and onshore construction, including roads, storage yards and accommodation facilities. FLNG can also accelerate LNG developments; an FLNG vessel can be ordered at an earlier stage of appraisal of a new gas field, with less guarantee of production longevity than needed to underpin an onshore greenfield investment; if and when the gas resources in the first field are exhausted, the FLNG can be redeployed to another field.

From bow to stern, Shell’s FLNG facility will be 488 meters long, and will be the largest floating offshore facility in the world. 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. Some 260,000 tonnes of that weight will consist of steel—around five times more than was used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Despite its proportions, the facility is one-quarter the size of an equivalent plant on land. Engineers have designed components that will stack vertically to save space. The operating plant, for example, will be placed above LNG storage tanks. They also came up with the idea of using cold ocean water to help cool the gas, avoiding the need for extra equipment on deck. An assembly of eight one-metre diameter pipes will extend from the facility to about 150 m below the ocean’s surface. It will deliver around 50,000 m3 of cold seawater each hour. This helps to cool the gas from below the facility, saving deck space.

Our innovative FLNG technology will allow us to develop offshore gas fields that otherwise would be too costly to develop. Our decision to go ahead with this project is a true breakthrough for the LNG industry, giving it a significant boost to help meet the world’s growing demand for the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. FLNG technology is an exciting innovation, complementary to onshore LNG, which can help accelerate the development of gas resources.

—Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s Executive Director, Upstream International

The facility will be secured in place by one of the largest mooring systems in the world. Four groups of mooring lines will anchor it to the seabed. The system allows the facility to turn slowly in the wind, absorbing the impact of strong weather conditions, while remaining moored over the gas field. It is designed to stay moored at sea even during the most powerful cyclones, saving production days that would otherwise be lost on disconnecting the facility and moving it off the field.

Three 6,700-horsepower engines will sit in the rear of the facility. Two of these will operate at any one time to turn the facility out of the wind and allow LNG carriers to pull safely alongside to load. The facility’s storage tanks will be below deck. They can store up to 220,000 m3 of LNG, 90,000 m3 of LPG, and 126,000 m3 of condensate. The total storage capacity is equivalent to around 175 Olympic swimming pools.

Ocean-going LNG carriers will offload liquefied gas, chilled to -162 °C and shrunk in volume by 600 times, and other products, directly from the facility out at sea for delivery to markets worldwide. Until now, the liquefaction of offshore gas has always involved piping the gas to a land-based plant.

Shell has progressed the Prelude FLNG project at a rapid pace, with first production of LNG expected some ten years after the gas was discovered.

The FLNG facility will tap around 3 trillion cubic feet equivalent of resources contained in the Prelude gas field. Shell discovered the Prelude gas field in 2007.

Some 110,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of expected production from Prelude should underpin at least 5.3 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of liquids, comprising 3.6 mtpa of LNG, 1.3 mtpa of condensate and 0.4 mtpa of liquefied petroleum gas. The FLNG facility will stay permanently moored at the Prelude gas field for 25 years, and in later development phases should produce from other fields in the area where Shell has an interest.

Beyond this, our ambition is to develop more FLNG projects globally. Our design can accommodate a range of gas fields, and our strategic partnership with Technip and Samsung should enable us to apply it progressively faster for future projects. We see opportunities around the world to work on other FLNG projects with governments, energy companies and customers.

—Malcolm Brinded

The Prelude FLNG project will be the first Australian upstream project in which Shell is the operator. Australia is one of Shell’s key growth provinces, and Shell’s upstream investment in Australia should reach some $30 billion over the next five years, including the Prelude and Gorgon projects, and on-going exploration and feasibility studies in the country.



"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."

No peak oil, just for the fun of it all.


Could the NG be converted to diesel fuel/gasoline on-board this huge barge below it is transported off by tankers?


Shell has platform ships in the north that convert natural gas to liquids. They chose to go this route because they have customers for LNG in Asia.


GTL is complex and only about 45% efficient or so. It is much cheaper and more efficient to convert trucks to LNG than to make GTL diesel.


SJC & E-P...thank you for the info. I was thinking more about the ease of transport and distribution of the finished products and the use of existing platforms. Converting existing fleets to LNG is very expensive and requires 24/7 access to LNG. Converting the 400+ existing coal fired power plants may be cheaper for equivalent results.


They consider natural gas at off shore rigs to be stranded unless someone wants to build the pipes and they are close enough to shore. With natural gas so cheap, this does not pan out most of the time in the U.S.

China does not have a huge amount of natural gas, Korea and Japan have almost none. Even at one billion dollars per LNG train, it makes some sense. Sempra in San Diego put in one in Ensenada Mexico because they could supply electricity and natural gas to southern California and did not have to site the facility in California.

When you look at natural gas reserves, the middle east has HUGE amounts. They could make that into liquids, but that might cut into oil sales, so maybe not. I think they will eventually and sell it to India and others. Iran has LOTS of natural gas and has converted vehicles. They could easily make fuels as well, but so far have not. They have a lack of refinery capacity as well.


That's really an amazing feat of engineering.... pretty ballsy, too, to say "eh, let's just build this to withstand a category 5 cyclone."

Re: nat gas prices- unlike oil, there isn't really a "global" natural gas price. Low prices in the U.S. doesn't mean that such an expensive project isn't viable elsewhere.

Converting existing fleets to LNG is very expensive and requires 24/7 access to LNG.
No it doesn't. Modern LNG tanks can hold fuel for days without venting, and a co-fuelled NG/diesel engine can switch to 100% diesel when the NG tank is dry.

The ME has less NG than you might think; Saudi Arabia is burning increasing amounts of oil for electric generation because it's running short of gas.


Country Gas Production* Gas Reserves**
Bahrain 8.9 3.2
*In billion cubic meters
**In trillion cubic feet
SOURCE: British Petroleum Review of World Gas; United States Energy Information Administration.
Iran 60.6 812.3
Iraq - 109.8
Kuwait 9.5 52.7
Oman 13.4 29.3
Qatar 32.5 393.8
Saudia Arabia 53.7 213.8
United Arab Emirates 41.3 212.1
Yemen - 16.9
Other Middle East 8.1 10.2
Total Middle East 228 1,974.6
% of World Total 9.3 36.1

Iran has more than twice the reserves of the U.S.


First year 2007

United States 237.726 244.656 272.509
Iran 974.00 948.200 991.600 1,045.670
Iraq 112.00 111.940 111.940 111.940
Qatar 910.50 905.300 891.945
Saudi Arabia 240.000 253.107 258.470,&syid=2007&eyid=2011&unit=MST

I think you get the picture.


"It is designed to stay moored at sea even during the most powerful cyclones, saving production days that would otherwise be lost on disconnecting the facility and moving it off the field."

Ahhh, humans. When will you ever learn you cannot strong-arm Mother Nature?

I just can't wait to see the pictures when this pending disaster comes to fruition...


NG power plants can be more efficient (59% vs 44%) and much cleaner (almost 2x) than coal power plants. It would be relatively easy to upgrade the 400+ older dirty USA coal power plants. Connecting them 24/7 to existing NG pipelines is not a challenge.

Trucks, buses and other vehicles can be partly and/or fully electrified to reduce the use of fossil and/or bio fuels and emission of pollutants.

Existing coal reserves could be used to produce gas, liquid fuels and essential chemicals for the next century or two.


There are companies that make combined cycle front ends for existing coal fired power plants that will make them cleaner and more efficient. They can run on natural gas or gasified coal. This was all planned by Clinton and eliminated by Bush.


'Waterworld' comes true. Hate to be cynical but I think the idea of a floating process plant was to avoid the drama of piping to a land base; google James Price Point. 200 km is a a lot shorter than the 1200 km undersea gas pipe from Norway to the UK.

The West Australian govt has a policy that 15% of gas must be reserved for domestic consumption. It seems wasteful to liquefy the gas, ship it to nearby iron ore mines then regasify it. My guess is that nearly all the gas will go to Asia, the WA govt will get some royalties and Shell stockholders will get the biggest benefits. It is not clear if gas burned to drive the equipment will be liable for Australia's 2012 carbon tax.


If natural gas to DME to gasoline can be done at half the energy loss, then consider natural gas power plants that are not all combined cycle, but mostly peak plants averaging a loss of 60%. Then you have transmission losses, charger losses, batteries losses, controller loses and motor losses getting it to the wheels.

Then consider we have 200 million gasoline cars and essentially zero EVs and maybe 1 million in 10 years. THIS is why we convert stranded natural gas into gasoline. LNG is expensive and dangerous when terrorist decide to blow up ports. The middle east has five times the reserves of natural gas compared to the U.S. but they will not cut their oil revenue making fuels out of it.


"GTL projects are around 60% thermal
efficiency, resulting in around 40% heat
rejection to the surroundings"

Now is they could use the rejected heat back into preheating the feed or distilling ethanol, then more is used.

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