While much of the news and analysis on this site is dedicated to promising technologies that may help us transition towards a society that runs on emissions-free energy, the truth of the matter is that we're still very reliant on fossil fuels. This means that some new technologies will also be dedicated to efficiently extracting and processing more of it.
With that in mind, the announcement that Shell's new natural gas refinery will become the largest floating object in the world shouldn't come as shocking news to anyone. The company said that plans are in place to build the ginormous Floating Liquefied Natural Gas project or FLNG at Samsung Heavy Industries’ Geoje Island shipyards in South Korea. From there, it will be towed to a spot 300 miles off the coast of Broome, Australia, and connected to the Prelude natural gas field, where the facility will extract the equivalent of 110,000 barrels of oil each day for a minimum of 25 years.
The sophisticated technology and machinery aboard the vessel is designed to chill the natural gas to a temperature of -260° F, which also shrinks gas volume by 600 times. Having an on-site liquefaction process enables the gas to be shipped abroad without having to pipe it to a land-based plant.
Construction on the FLNG is scheduled to begin in 2017. So in the meantime, here are some statistics and a really nifty illustrated size comparison chart so you can get an idea how massive this gas factory will be:
The floating liquified natural gas facility weighs in at 600,000 metric tons, almost half of which will consist of steel. By comparison, the MS Oasis of the Seas -- the world's largest cruise ship -- weighs 225,282 tons and can house 6,000 passengers.
The vessel will be about 488 meters (one-third of a mile) long.
The facility will tap into about 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
I'm also pretty sure that the oil giant is well aware that there are going to be more than a few nay-sayers who foresee the project as a recipe for a potential BP-sized environmental disaster. To assuage these concerns, Shell says the facility is sturdy enough to survive a category 5 typhoon intact.
And whether you like it or not, Shell has its sights set on expanding the technology and putting into operation more of these offshore mega-gas factories.
“Beyond this, our ambition is to develop more FLNG projects globally," said Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s Executive Director, Upstream International. "We see opportunities around the world to work on other FLNG projects with governments, energy companies and customers.”