Shell Conquers the Sea with its First FLNG Facility

There’s a good reason why Shell has become one of the biggest brands—if not the biggest—in the petroleum industry. It doesn’t just innovate but takes the lead.

Perhaps one of its largest and most disruptive technologies to date is its FLNG project.

What Is FLNG?

FLNG stands for floating liquefied natural gas. It simply suggests that this project aims to produce the first liquefied natural gas that isn’t produced in land. It is certain revolutionary since LNG (liquefied natural gas) has certain requirements that have to be fulfilled to create it.

LNG works by condensing the gas—that is, changing gas to liquid using a very cold temperature that is around 162 degrees Celsius. When it has already become liquid, the molecules can shrink, which then increases the volume of gas that can be delivered to consumers, both individuals and businesses, including Shell’s partners.

Most of all, in order to have gas, the company has to “outsource” it from a field. This can be a huge problem since regardless of the supply of gas, it’s bound to be depleted soon.

How Can FLNG Solve the Problem?

As the first floating LNG facility, Shell is starting to liberate itself from the huge investment and costly maintenance of a pipeline, which delivers gas from the field to the processing facility. The idea is actually simple: with the vessel, Shell can now move more conveniently to a viable location.

Moreover, it has now the ability to serve places that may otherwise be difficult to reach through conventional transport.

The setup will also be sustainable. In the traditional setting, not only does Shell need to have a complex pipeline and production system, it also requires a massive tract of land in order to operate properly.

What Is the Plan?

While the idea is novel, efficient, and worthy, execution is an entirely different arena. It’s not going to be easy for a number of reasons.

· How do you convert a production facility into a vessel?

· Will the vessel produce substantial LNG?

· How will it tackle natural challenges including weather conditions?

· How will the process differ from traditional production?

To address all these issues, Shell then hired and worked with several top-notch engineers in Australia and the rest of the world. They are responsible for the design, production, and safety of the vessel. They need to give the craft flexibility, which is actually missing or sorely lacking in its traditional setup.

The FLNG will have:

· Steam boilers

· MEG regeneration (acid gas stripping)

· End flash, boil off and fuel gas

· Liquefaction section

· Flare boom

· Separation units

· Gas inlet

· Storage in the hull

· Turret, which will be meant for mooring and help the ship navigate

· Utilities

· Accommodation for all the employees onboard

Once it’s complete, it will measure 488 meters in length and 74 meters in width—yes, this is slated to be the largest ship on sea. However, it’s the footprint is significantly less than the traditional setup. The engineers were able to conquer the challenge of limited space through a vertical system. Much of the production is done above deck while the storage facility is underneath.

Moreover, using its incredibly vast experience in LNG, Shell taps directly into the source, which is under the sea. The waters from the sea are expected to serve as the chilling medium, so there’s no need to invest or make cooling equipment. This also reduces the load of the ship.

As for production, they expect this ship to produce around 5 million tons of liquid per year or 3.6 mtpa once it’s converted into LNG. Although this may not be enough to support all of Australia’s needs, it’s substantial, considering the ship’s design is ¼ of the traditional plant facility.

The ship, which is aptly called Prelude, will be moored on the southwestern coast of the country, around Broome and Darwin. The turrets will make it more adaptable to possible adverse weather and strong winds.

From the ship, the products are immediately dispensed to standard carriers, which are then responsible for delivering LNG around the world.

How Is It Going Now?

The ship is still currently being built in Samsung’s South Korea shipyard. Samsung is one of Shell’s partners in this venture. It costs more than $10 billion.

Phase 1, which includes drilling and delivery of 3 production wells, has already been completed. Phase 2, which adds 4 more wells. Drilling operations will go on for the rest of 2015.