Shell has unveiled plans to build the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) platform. The 600,000-tonne craft, which will be the world’s biggest ship, will be sited off the coast of Australia. She will be built at Samsung Heavy Industries’ shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea and, when finished and fully loaded, will weigh 600,000 tonnes.
She will be used to tap into the previously unreachable reservoirs of natural gas, some of which are hundreds or thousands of miles from land, or the nearest pipeline. By 2017 the vessel should be anchored off the north coast of Australia, where it will be used to harvest natural gas from Shell’s Prelude field. Once the gas is on board, it will be cooled until it liquefies, and stored in vast tanks at -161oC. Every six or seven days a tanker will dock beside the platform and load up enough fuel to heat a city the size of London for a week. The tankers will then sail to Japan, China, Korea or Thailand to offload their cargo.
The traditional way of transporting gas offshore is through pipelines. But the Prelude gas field is 124 miles from Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast, and there are no pipelines there.