Keeping the lights on in the Philippines
An innovative project in deep waters demonstrates how older gas fields can continue providing energy to power homes and businesses.
Manila, already one of the world’s densest and most populated cities, is undergoing a major growth spurt.
An expanding middle class is driving sales of electronic goods, cars and condominiums. More people are visiting air-conditioned shopping centres and supermarkets in the crowded Philippine capital.
And with a rising population and no end in sight to the country’s economic boom, policymakers in the Philippines are thinking hard about how to generate enough energy to meet the expected doubling of demand over the next 15 years.
The options include exploring for more natural gas to generate electricity, as well as buying liquefied natural gas from other countries.
But a new project in deep waters off the western Philippines is demonstrating another way to meet the world’s growing energy needs – by boosting the life of existing energy assets.
Today, the Malampaya offshore gas field is one of the main sources of energy for the Philippines. It provides up to 30% of the electricity supply of the main island of Luzon, which, in turn, generates around 80% of the country’s gross domestic product.
But since production at Malampaya started in 2001, pressure in the gas reservoir deep beneath the seabed has dropped, potentially reducing the supply of electricity to millions of homes and businesses.
“It’s very important that we find a way to maximise the field and keep it going as long as possible,” says Sebastian Quiniones, asset manager of Shell Philippines Exploration which operates Malampaya.
To address the problem, Shell designed a so-called depletion compression platform which boosts the pressure to help keep gas flowing out of the reservoir and through the pipeline to shore. The new platform is expected to maintain the gas flow at current levels for about another decade.
Time-lapse video shows the making of Malampaya
Title: Self-installing platform helps keep the lights on
Duration: 1:00 minute
Watch this timelapse of a self-installing platform that will help unlock more energy from deep water off the Philippines to power businesses and homes. More than 1,400 workers over two years have made this impressive feat a reality. The new platform, Phase 3 of the Malampaya project, is designed to maintain the supply of natural gas which meets around 30% of the country’s energy needs.
[Background music plays]
Sped-up footage of the erection of a centrally-located, tall, red gantry on a vast, level concrete foundation. Construction equipment and vehicles move about around the gantry as it’s being raised. Blue-roofed warehouses are visible at the side of the foundation area.
Sped-up aerial footage of the fabrication yard, which is located in an open, below-ground area. The tall, red gantry moves overhead on tracks either side of the fabrication yard, lowering massive, modular pieces of a building being constructed in the sunken area. The scene is very busy, with workers constantly coming and going.
Sped-up footage. The camera zooms in on the work going on on the upper level of the building being constructed in the fabrication yard. More massive modular pieces of the building are being lowered into place on the construction by the gantry.
The building which was being constructed in the sunken area, supported on a massive floating platform, is towed away from the pier and out of the harbour by two tugboats. A tall, massive leg extends from each corner of the floating platform.
The tugboats tow the floating platform further out to sea, passing a densely-forested headland.
Sped-up footage of the platform in open ocean. There is a tugboat attached to each leg. The tugboats are each positioned at an equal distance from each leg, facing away from the platform.
Sped-up footage, from the deck of an adjacent platform, of the platform with its legs now lowered about halfway into the ocean. The platform begins to rise.
Close-up, at deck level, of the rising platform.
Sped-up footage. The platform has risen to the top of the four legs. A crane from the adjacent platform lowers a metal bridge to span the narrow gap between the two platforms.
Sped-up footage of the two platforms at dusk. A flame is visible at the top of near-vertical narrow chimney on one of the platforms. A tugboat floats alongside as the sky darkens and lights come on on the two platforms.
Sped-up footage of a night-time scene on the platform. The view is a closer one, from just alongside the platform. As we watch, the platform rises. Workers are visible on the various levels of the platform.
A foggy daytime scene of the two platforms, side by side, in the open ocean.
The platform took two years to complete, involved over 1,400 workers, and is the first gas platform to be completely designed and built in the Philippines. It has several innovative features.
For one, the 13,000-tonne structure had to be installed without the use of specialised vessels that normally transport and help place the offshore platform on the seabed. Few vessels were available due to the remote location of the existing Malampaya platform, located some 50 kilometres offshore from Palawan in the South China Sea.
The engineering team addressed this challenge by designing a built-in jacking system with four, 80-metre legs. Once the legs were fully extended into the water, they lifted the platform into its final position.
The new compression platform and the bridge linking the existing platform to it must also withstand strong tremors, as the Malampaya field is located in an earthquake and typhoon-prone region.
“One of our challenges was designing for both these forces of nature,” says Martyn Turner, Shell’s head of design and engineering for the platform.
Martyn and his team designed a bridge that would slide rather than remain bolted in place so that it would not break in the event of a major tremor.
The bridge linking the two platforms was designed to withstand strong tremors
On board the platform are two powerful 26MW compressors, which are the industrial version of the engines used by aircraft such as the Boeing 747s. They compress the gas produced by the existing platform, boosting its pressure so that it can be piped to the shore.
The design of Malampaya’s new platform will likely be used in other remote offshore areas, says Graham Henley, Shell’s vice president of operated projects.
“It’s just as important to get as much oil and gas out of existing fields as we can as it is to find cost-effective solutions for new developments,” says Henley. “And as responsible developers of our mature fields, we should be aiming to reach the last remaining reserves.”
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Shell’s Malampaya gas-to-power project off the coast of Palawan signalled the birth of the natural gas industry in the Philippines.
Shell has a long history of developing energy projects using its knowledge, experience and proven deep-water technologies to unlock new resources safely and efficiently. Read more about Shell’s deep-water work around the world.