Top 10 FLNG projects: Shell's Prelude

An in-depth look at the Prelude FLNG




Shell Prelude FLNG: an overview

Between the 1970s and the early 2010s, FLNG vessels were an exciting and complicated prospect – and that’s all they remained until 2012, when Shell began constructing its groundbreaking Prelude FLNG – the first vessel of its kind. Building on decades of research and concept designs, the first FLNG vessels are only now beginning to yield the results that were first aimed at in the 1990s.

Don’t miss our full rundown of the top 10 FLNG projects.

In the third of a series of articles detailing the 10 most important FLNG projects of all time, we look at the Prelude in detail, and how it fits into the timeline beginning with Mobil’s Doughnut design, and running to the upcoming New Age FLNG, due in 2022. If you’re new to this topic, or just want to learn more, make sure to check out the first part of this series, focusing on The Doughnut – or the second, covering the Azure.

Shell FLNG: Auspicious beginnings

After three years of research and design, Shell announced its final investment decision on its Australian-based Prelude FLNG in May, 2011. Following this move, detailed design drafts were begun, and construction timelines were firmed up in the dedicated shipyard in South Korea. The director of upstream described the move as a “true breakthrough for the LNG industry, giving it a significant boost to help meet the world’s growing demand for the cleanest-burning fossil fuel”.

The development of FLNG projects was intended as “an exciting innovation, complementary to onshore LNG”, and despite the long road to FLNG production, the Prelude FLNG project itself moved rather rapidly – and is set to produce its first fuel within eleven years of the discovery of gas in the Prelude field. 

Recent developments

In the last month, there have been signs that the Prelude will soon commence producing LNG commercially, most notably the flaring of two cargoes of gas that have been stored on the vessel for the last few months. There has been LNG in the Prelude’s storage tanks for the best part of a year, yet production is yet to commence. It was originally expected that production would begin in November, but estimates now put the first production in the first quarter of 2019.

Reserves in the Prelude field are estimated to exceed three trillion cubic feet of gas.

Pitched as a major contributing factor in the proliferation of LNG use across the globe, the Prelude is entering the market at an interesting moment. Pressure from environmental groups – and, as of this week, Shell itself – has been growing for years, and it is now expected that major energy firms demonstrate a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of their production wherever possible. With gas fuels consistently seen as the cleanest fossil fuel, and estimates of current reserves ranging from 300 to 500 years’ worth, Shell’s gamble on the world’s largest FLNG may well pay dividends.

FLNG Prelude: a timeline

The Prelude FLNG is massive. Make no mistake, it is well worth reiterating that the 600 designers working on the project produced the largest vessel in the category to date. With a two-third interest in the project, Shell’s Prelude FLNG is moored to a depth of 250m and will provide over eight million tonnes of liquids and LNG per year until at least 2043.

flng_2

The journey to this point has been long, beginning with the groundbreaking floating LNG decision in 2011, and most recently reaching the flaring of hydrocarbons this winter.

  • May 2011: the board of Royal Dutch Shell takes the final decision to approve the Prelude FLNG.
  • October 2012: construction begins in earnest on the Shell Prelude FLNG, with the first steel being cut at the Samsung Heavy Industries yard in South Korea.
  • May 2013: the keel is installed into the hull structure, a process that has so far included over 1,600 sections up the size of a building facade.
  • June 2017: the Prelude FLNG begins its voyage across the East China Sea to its new home in NW Australia.
  • July 2017: the floating LNG terminal arrives at its destination off the coast of Australia.
  • November 2017: the Prelude is hooked-up and able to weathervane.
  • June 2018: gas is delivered to the Prelude for the first time, allowing tests to begin
  • October 2018: signs of activity begin aboard the FLNG vessel, with observers reporting the flaring of fuels delivered earlier in the year.

Earlier today, Reuters reported that Shell is aiming to begin production on the Prelude FLNG by the end of the year.

For more information on FLNG, head over to our content hub.