Supply base completion marks milestone

Shell Australia country chair Andrew Smith with Northern Territory primary industry minister Willem Westra van Holthe and NT Chief Minister Adam Giles at the opening of the supply base.

Shell Australia country chair Andrew Smith with Northern Territory primary industry minister Willem Westra van Holthe and NT Chief Minister Adam Giles at the opening of the supply base.

By Courtney Pearson

April 2, 2015

FLOATING LNG technology has been flagged as the future of oil and gas and a potential game-changer for the Australian LNG industry.

Shell’s massive Prelude FLNG project is the first of its kind in the world; it will be moored off the coast of WA in the Browse Basin for 25 years and allow for the production, liquefaction, storage and transfer of LNG at sea.

Technip Oceania managing director Sam Allen, who works with Shell on the Prelude project, said FLNG technology could be a lifesaver for the Australian LNG industry.

“[Prelude] could unlock many stranded fields in Australia and by 2030 there could be up to 15 FLNG facilities,” he said.

“Of course a lot of things need to happen for that to happen – maybe [it will be] 10, maybe [it will be] 15, but our opinion is that it will happen.”

Once Prelude is fully up and running, Australia, and Perth particularly, is tipped to become a hub for FLNG technology, heralding a number of FLNG developments in the country and around the world.

Prelude is a joint venture between operator Shell (67.5 per cent), INPEX (17.5 per cent), Kogas (10 per cent) and CPC (5 per cent) and is well progressing through the construction phase. When fully operational, the FLNG facility will be capable of producing at least 5.3 million tonnes per annum of liquids, 3.6mtpa of LNG, 1.3mtpa of condensate and 400,000tpa of LPG from the Prelude and Concerto gas fields in the Browse Basin.

The facility’s substructure and topsides are currently under construction in the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje, South Korea – one of the few drydocks in the world large enough to construct the facility. At 488m long, 74m wide and weighing more than 600,000t, the Prelude facility will be the largest structure ever sent to sea.

Workers will fly to and from the facility from an aviation base in Broome, WA, which has been the supply base for the project’s development since 2013.

The permanent onshore supply base was recently completed in Darwin, marking a milestone in Prelude’s construction phase.

“The Prelude onshore supply base in Darwin is complete and is now receiving spare parts and equipment,” Shell Australia Prelude FLNG asset manager Jim Marshall said.

“Equipment requiring overhaul will be sent in from Prelude to Darwin and will then either be sent to workshops in Darwin or to specialists overseas if it’s necessary.”

The Darwin location for the support base was chosen due to the existing LNG industry in the area, which has cemented the city as a major contributor to the national LNG industry.

The onshore supply base comprises a 6500 square metre warehouse including 1500sqm of climate-controlled storage; office facilities to support base operations; and 3 hectares of work and storage yards specifically designed to support Prelude. It will also facilitate the management of third-party materials for project work.

Supply vessels will travel from the facility to Darwin every week, and all international and national consignments will be delivered to Darwin Port.

In November last year the warehouse received its first materials to be stored, including several large items of more than 60t.

Shell Australia country chair Andrew Smith said the base was a vital hub for Prelude and would play  a critical role in the ongoing operations and maintenance of the facility.

Inside the recently opened onshore supply base in Darwin. First materials arrived in early November 2014.

Inside the recently opened onshore supply base in Darwin. First materials arrived in early November 2014.

Prelude: an update

Since the final investment decision for the Prelude FLNG project in May 2011, the joint venture partners have achieved a large list of milestones.

Now, the multiple billion-dollar development is progressing full steam ahead, with first gas  expected in 2016.

“Three of the wells have been successfully completed and tested, so there’s some gas there and that’s good news for all of us,” Mr Marshall said.

“In Malaysia the subsea equipment is being fabricated and the seven Christmas trees have been completed and they’re ready for installation.”

Shell is in the early stages of the contracting and procurement process for Prelude operations and maintenance, and 2015 is set to be a critical year for the project.

“In 2015 we expect [to secure] 35 per cent or 30 per cent of the key contractors required to support Prelude operations,” Mr Marshall said.

“2015 will see award of contracts such as facilities management, running the floatel, maintenance and qualification services, laboratory services and production chemicals.”

Last year Shell focused on fabricating  the topside modules and shipyard installation. So far the project has eight out of 14 modules up on the deck, with two lifted in during the first week of March.

“We then move on to the commissioning activities – pre-commissioning and commissioning – with the intent that we do as much of the commissioning as possible in the yard,” Mr Marshall said.

Once Prelude is operational between 120 and 140 fly in, fly out staff will operate and maintain the facility. The facility will have the capacity to accommodate up to 340 people during heavier maintenance periods.

At the opening of the onshore supply base last year the Northern Territory Government announced the Prelude to the Future program, which will employ 20 Northern Territory apprentices through Group Training NT, with support from the Charles Darwin University. The program includes six weeks of work experience and ongoing mentoring for 18 months, and is designed to boost the employability of disadvantaged Territorians in skill shortage occupations.

The program is a partnership between the Prelude FLNG joint venture, the Northern Territory Government, Charles Darwin University and Group Training NT.

“The success of the project will depend on having the right teams operating and maintaining the facility,” Mr Marshall said.