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Prelude: a world’s worth of talent and technology
Creating the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) project continues to be one of the most ambitious engineering projects in the world. In order to get the unique combination of talent and technology needed to contribute to this project, we’ve brought together technical skills and innovative components from around the world. As the project develops further we're now up-skilling local talent and businesses through partnerships with universities and regional training opportunities.
Making FLNG a reality is no simple feat, we've had to innovate hard and invest heavily, shrinking an onshore LNG plant to about a quarter of the size. However, we are uniquely positioned to make it a success given our commercial capability; our LNG, offshore, deepwater and marine technology; and our proven ability to successfully deliver megaprojects. Many of the technologies used on the FLNG facility are ones we have used onshore, but some have been extended or modified in order for the processes such as liquefaction and offloading to occur at sea.
Size matters when it comes to stability
With increased size comes increased stability. Measuring nearly half a kilometre in length, 74 metres wide and weighing more than 600,000 tonnes with its cargo tanks full, Prelude will be the largest offshore floating facility ever built. Around 260,000 tonnes of steel are being used in the construction of the facility, that’s around five times the amount of steel used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Precision is paramount
Around 5,000 people are involved in the construction of the Prelude FLNG facility in South Korea, plus 1,000 on the Turret Mooring System, subsea and wells equipment. Watching the team at the Samsung shipyard in Geoje, South Korea as they measure accuracy to the millimeter shows how, despite the colossal size of Prelude, precision is paramount and the team’s expertise and dedication are crucial to the success of the project.
Prelude FLNG turret construction in Dubai
Following the two massive halves of the hull being joined together, Willie Gray, his international team and their families wave Prelude out of the drydock . It’s not surprising that, following 18 million hours of design and development, including 14 months of construction so far, Didrik Reymert, Project Director, can’t hide his awe and pride when he looks at Prelude. “It’s amazing. It’s very big, it’s very impressive and it’s a fantastic achievement by everybody.”
The construction of the processing plant is now underway. Once the project is completed and moored 200km off the coast of Western Australia, a whole new phase of the project will begin; working towards a point when 3.6 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas will be processed each year, along with 1.3 mtpa of condensate and 0.4 mtpa of LPG.
A local legacy
The Prelude FLNG project will provide significant benefits to Australia, creating around 1,000 jobs and providing many opportunities for Australian businesses. According to an independent analysis by ACIL Tasman, over the 25-year life of the project, Prelude FLNG will add more than AUS $45 billion to Australia’s GDP.
In Western Australia, to build local capacity and expertise to support the Prelude FLNG project, Shell is investing millions of dollars in local universities and education providers such as the Challenger Institute of Technology and the University of Western Australia.
Jo Walker Smith, a lecturer at the Challenger Institute, says “it’s great seeing the ‘light bulb’ moment when the technicians see the link between the fundamental science and engineering that underlies the processes they may have been operating for many years. You can see how this improved understanding will assist in ensuring that Prelude operates at its maximum potential.”
Shell has also partnered with the University of Western Australia (UWA) to sponsor PhD research related to offshore hydrodynamics, offshore structures and the behaviour of floating liquefied natural gas facilities. The aim is to ensure a ready and local supply of expertise at the forefront of this emerging technology by creating a centre of excellence for FLNG.
Preparing for production at Prelude
After years of planning, preparation and integration, Jim Marshall believes FLNG will soon be the norm for gas production. Even though Prelude’s construction is still continuing, his role already entails building the organisational capability to bring Prelude into production.