Prelude FLNG, the Biggest Offshore Structure Ever Built, Arrives in Australia

prelude flag
Shell’s Prelude FLNG heads for Australia. Credit: Shell Australia

Shell’s giant floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility, the Prelude FLNG, has arrived at its new home at the Prelude field off the coast of Western Australia following a 3,600 mile tow from South Korea. 

The massive facility, at 600,000-tonnes, is the largest floating offshore structure ever built. The facility was constructed at the Samsung Heavy Shipyard in Geoje, South Korea, where it departed in late June under tow by three tugs.

Prelude is not only massive, but it also is the first deployment of Shell’s FLNG technology, that will see the 488-meter-long facility extracting and liquefying gas at sea so that it can be exported to customers around the globe.

Now on site approximately 475km north-north east of Broome in Western Australia, the Prelude FLNG will be moored to the seabed for a period of 20 to 25 years and, at its peak, will produce approximately 3.6 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and condensate, a light oil, each year. 

Prelude FLNG under tow to Australia.

With tugs holding the facility in place, crews will now work to connect 16 pre-positioned mooring chains to Prelude’s 93-meter high turret, permanently securing the facility in about 250 meters of water. The turret allows Prelude to pivot with the prevailing current and wind, giving it the ability to weathervane and ride out even the strongest cyclones without having to disconnect the pipelines that feed gas into the facility from the Prelude field.

Hook-up and commissioning phase is expected to take between 9-12 months.

First FLNG Facility in Australia

The Prelude FLNG is not only the largest but also the first floating liquefaction facility deployed in Australian waters. Shell Australia Chairman Zoe Yujnovich described its arrival as a new era for the Australian LNG export industry.

“Prelude’s arrival is a clear demonstration of Shell’s long standing commitment to investment and development in Australia – delivering significant economic benefits to the nation.” Yujnovich added Shell had awarded a majority of Prelude contracts to Australian contractors, including the contract awarded to Australian engineering company Monadelphous for maintenance and modification services valued at $200 million.

“Prelude is an Australian project and Shell has recognised how important it is to build strong partnerships with Australian industry,” she said.

The Prelude project will employ 260 local workers on board the facility during operations and create over a 1500 jobs during the hook-up and commissioning phase of the project. Shell has said it expects to start production during 2018.