BY REUBEN ADAMS
SHELL’S pioneering Prelude development is a key plank in the company’s long term strategy to address a LNG supply deficit, as well as the goals set down via the Paris Climate Agreement. The largest offshore floating facility ever built left Samsung’s Geoje shipbuilding yard in Korea on 29 June, bound for the North West Shelf where it will be deployed to extract and process LNG from the Prelude and Concerto gas fields.
It was widely predicted that the flood of new LNG supply from Australia would well and truly outpace global demand growth during 2016.
Instead, demand growth kept pace with supply as greater than expected demand in Asia and the Middle East absorbed the increase in supply from Australia, according to Shell’s February 2017 LNG Outlook.
Global demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) reached 265 million tonnes in 2016 – enough to supply power to around 500 million homes a year. “
Global LNG trade demonstrated its flexibility time and again in 2016, responding to shortfalls in national and regional gas supply and to new emerging demand,” Shell Integrated Gas and New Energies director Maarten Wetselaar said.
“The outlook for LNG demand is set to grow at twice the rate of gas demand, at 4 to 5 per cent a year between 2015 and 2030.”
China and India were two of the fastest growing buyers, increasing their imports by a combined 11.9mt of LNG in 2016; this boosted China’s LNG imports in 2016 to 27mt and India’s to 20mt.
“Let me make it very simple for you,” Shell chair Charles O. Holliday said at the energy giant’s Annual General Meeting on 23 May.
“Between now and 2060, we have to increase the energy supply by about 60 per cent in the world and that is because the population will go from 7.4 billion to over 10 billion; but also, each one of us will be requiring more energy.”
“A 60 per cent increase, while at the same time we need drastically to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions toward net zero, if we are to meet the goals that the nations of the world set forward in Paris.”
“Next year the very first oil tanker in the world will be powered by LNG from Shell and the following year, two ships from Carnival Cruise Lines will be powered by LNG in the largest carrier of pleasure craft in the world.
“These are steps people thought would not happen. They are happening today and Shell gas, Shell LNG is an important part of those steps forward.”
Prelude: the next phase
Prelude, to be deployed off the northwest coast of WA, will initially extract and process gas from subsea wells 475km offshore at the Prelude and Concerto gas fields.
It would produce up to 5.3 million tonnes per annum of liquids, 3.6mtpa of LNG, 1.3mtpa of condensate and 400,000 tonnes per annum of LPG.
Operated by Shell in conjunction with INPEX (17.5 per cent interest), KOGAS (10 per cent interest) and OPIC (5 per cent interest), the development is expected to remain moored in the Browse Basin for 25 years at a water depth of about 250m.
The massive, record-breaking $US12 billion Prelude FLNG facility will be 488m long, 74m wide and weigh more than 600,000t fully ballasted.
Samsung Heavy Industries’ (SHI) shipyard at Geoje, South Korea, boasts one of the only dry docks in the world large enough to construct a facility of this size, where as many as 5000 people worked on Prelude FLNG at peak construction.
Once structurally complete in November 2013, the 200,000t Prelude FLNG hull was floated in the dry dock before it was towed by nine tugs through Geoje harbour to its new position on the quay, where it was secured by 32 heavy mooring ropes.
The topside modules, many weighing as much as a single typical offshore platform, were then installed on the hull and integrated.
Prelude construction and commissioning was completed on 29 June in Geoje, where an Australian team of 150 production technicians worked in the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard to support the commissioning of the facility, but also prepared the systems and processes for the operations and maintenance phase.
Shell has continued to hand out key contracts and ramp up training programs as the project nears this unspecified 2017/2018 completion date.
In March, EnerMech was awarded a pre-commissioning subcontract by Technip Oceania, part of TechnipFMC in Australia, on Prelude.
The work scope included the pre-installation filling of the risers, riser leak testing, pressure monitoring of the umbilical and electrical steel flying lead during pipelay, and electrical flying leads and umbilical testing.
Works would be conducted in-field, about 230km from mainland Northwest Australia, with engineering and project management conducted from EnerMech’s Perth Australia facility.
Marine, offshore, supply and logistics company Sinwa won a number of new supply agreements totalling $8 million for vessels involved in the Prelude project in late May.
Sinwa called the contracts a “milestone” for the group, as it is the highest contract value that Sinwa has secured for a single project in WA and the Northern Territory, catering to the requirements of over 1000 personnel involved in the Prelude FLNG Project.
The group will be servicing its clients requirements through its 10,000sqm Darwin facility, which is equipped with complete warehousing facilities, including freezer, chiller, provision and general storages, as well as laydown and hardstand areas.
Also in May, ASX-listed Swift Networks secured a 5 year contract to provide entertainment, connectivity, maintenance and support to the project.
“Shell faced a significant technical challenge in keeping its offshore workers entertained, informed and connected,” Swift Networks chief executive Xavier Kris said.
“We are pleased that the recognition of Swift’s technological capabilities has led Shell to invite us to provide a comprehensive telecommunication and digital entertainment solution to the Prelude project.”
HR Wallingford’s state-of-the-art simulation centre in Fremantle, WA – opened in February this year – was used to train the team responsible for towing the Prelude FLNG facility from Geoje in South Korea and positioning it at the Prelude gas field in the East Browse Basin.
HR Wallingford has been developing simulator-based systems and training courses to support professional development (CPD) for Marine Pilots and Tug Masters for more than 25 years.
The challenge to service larger ships combined with a considerable change in tug towage techniques, combined with increasing commercial pressures, have made tug and ship simulation an essential part of ensuring the safety of vessels within port limits; and they don’t get much bigger than Prelude.
According to Shell, by modelling actual wind, wave and tidal conditions recorded at the site, the crew accurately test the capability and power of the tugs, which were attached to the FLNG facility by a 700-metre-long wire, weighing about 30 tonnes.
The arrival of the facility to the Prelude location will see a significant increase in offshore activity. This will include hook-up to the pre-installed mooring lines and subsea equipment, as well as numerous system tests, berthing trials and imports of LNG and LPG to facilitate commissioning.
There will be increased vessel activity in the Prelude area and out of both Broome and Darwin Ports and a higher number of helicopters flying in and out of Broome during this phase.
Shell estimates that 800 personnel will be required offshore for this phase of the project; significantly higher than the workforce required for normal operations (between 120-140 people).
To accommodate this extra personnel an accommodation, support vessels will be located adjacent to the Prelude facility for the duration of the hook-up and commissioning phase of the project, which was expected to take between 9-12 months.