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How much liquefied natural gas can the world's largest floating platform produce? See how it produces enough to satisfy the annual needs of a city like Hong Kong

Written by Noel Budeguer
Published 18/05/2024 às 22:35
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Discover the largest floating liquefied natural gas platform in the world: it produces enough LNG to satisfy the annual needs of a city like Hong Kong

Shell's giant platform has a deck bigger than four football fields and storage tanks that would fill 175 Olympic swimming pools, producing enough gas to meet the annual needs of a city like Hong Kong

Displacing as much water as five aircraft carriers is just one surprising statistic which tries to explain the size of the largest ship in the world. The giant Shell Prelude platform, Samsung's massive floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) structure, began in 2012 and was completed in July 2018 by Samsung's Heavy Industries in South Korea, before being towed to Australia.

The floating facility is currently anchored at its starting point, Shell's Prelude gas field, located approximately 475 kilometers north of the west coast of Australia. The Prelude field began its offshore gas extraction and processing operations in 2018. The process involves extracting gas from the seabed and transporting it to the floating platform, where it is subjected to the necessary cooling.

Discover the surprising Shell Prelude platform, the largest vessel in the world in action

Despite its ship-like appearance, the Prelude ship is not, in the strictest sense, a ship, as it needs to be towed to its destination.

LNG ships serving Asian customers will stop and fill their tanks with liquefied gas that has been cooled to -162 degrees Celsius.

Its ability to produce and offload gas to large carriers eliminates the need for long pipelines to onshore LNG processing facilities. The technology is also praised for the structure's ability to be used in another remote location.

In 2016, Shell itself decided not to proceed with three more FLNG projects with Samsung due to the cost of offshore installation.

Shell, along with joint venture partners KOGAS and Impex, estimate the vessel will remain in the Prelude field for up to 25 years before being towed to another offshore field.

COLUMN | Prelude FLNG woes spell problems for Shell, Australia and neighbors too [Offshore Accounts] - Baird Maritime

Source: CNCB

A giant in numbers

The platform, owned by Royal Dutch Shell, measures 488 m long and 74 m wide. In addition to being long, the platform is high: according to Shell itself, the tower that crosses the installation reaches 93 meters.

The ship has a deck bigger than four football fields and storage tanks that would fill 175 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Almost a third of a mile long and longer than the Empire State Building, the Prelude is also as wide as the wings of a Boeing 747.

At full load, it displaces more than 600 tons, more than six times the displacement of the USS George Washington. More than 6.700 power thrusters are used to position the installation and 50 million liters of water will be used every hour to cool the liquefied natural gas.

Prelude's cost to date could be $19,3 billion, according to 2019 filings from OPIC Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Taiwan's CPC, which owns 5% of Prelude.

OPIC reported that construction costs “totaled $964 million through December 2019” for its 5% stake, indicating a total 100% cost of $19,3 billion

The giant recently received maintenance

The maintenance process began in August 2023 and concluded in December of the same year. Its remote offshore location, coupled with the complexities of being the first floating liquefied natural gas in the world, posed operational challenges. The facility has experienced intermittent outages, including a significant setback in December 2021 when a fire led to a complete loss of power.

Shell's response and forward-looking approach

Shell, recognizing the complexities of Prelude's operation, released a statement highlighting the complexity of the installation and its commitment to ensuring the safe execution of all activities. This extensive turnaround marked Prelude's first major maintenance effort, addressing not only the initially identified scopes of work, but also additional areas that were revealed during the process. This forward-looking approach demonstrates Shell's dedication to long-term installation reliability.

Impacts of the Prelude platform on the liquefied natural gas market

Located 475 kilometers off the west coast of Australia, Prelude has strategic importance in the global market for liquefied natural gas. Its resumption of operations strategically aligns with the winter peak in demand, particularly in large markets such as China and Europe. Although high inventories moderated purchases earlier in the year, the timing of Prelude's resurgence suggests a potential increase in exports of liquefied natural gas, contributing to the global energy panorama.

The resumption of Prelude exports is a positive development for Shell. The facility is expected to generate significant cash flow for the company in the coming years. The convergence of strategic timing, innovative technology and maintenance positions Prelude as a key player in the liquefied natural gas.

Information obtained from the page bairdmaritime.com 

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Noel Budeguer

Of Argentine nationality, I am a news writer and specialist in the field. I cover topics such as science, oil, gas, technology, the automotive industry, renewable energy and all trends in the job market.

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