Prelude Starts Production
The wells have been opened at Shell's Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) facility located off the coast of Broome in Western Australia.
Prelude now enters its initial phase of production where gas and condensate is produced and moved through the facility. Prelude has a nameplate capacity of 3.6 million tons per annum (mtpa). It is located 155 nautical miles offshore and weather vanes 360 degrees around a turret, moored in 248 meters of water. Three stern thrusters enable Prelude to maintain an optimum heading for offtake operations. It is fitted with the necessary equipment for exporting LNG/LPG via side by side mooring and loading arms and condensate via a tandem mooring and floating hose system.
It is moored to the sea bed via 16 anchor piles and chains whilst being directly connected to wells that access the gas reservoir via flexible risers routed through the turret. All reservoir, subsea control, processing, storage and loading is operated and controlled from Prelude.
Analysts say that Prelude will be an important test of the economic viability of the FLNG concept. Onshore plants have room to spread out and to grow, but the same equipment must be packed into a tight space if installed on a ship, adding complexity and raising cost. Shell has chosen not to exercise its options for more FLNGs like Prelude.
In November, Australia overtook Qatar to become the world's biggest exporter of LNG. The nation exceeded Qatar's monthly production by shipping 6.8 million tons during the month (versus Qatar's 6.2 million tons).
According to WoodMac, QatarGas was conducting maintenance during November, which reduced Qatari output slightly, and it will likely regain top position during December. However, Australia is still adding new production from the Prelude FLNG. In the medium term, Qatar has plans to boost its ranking and will add another four liquefaction trains with 33 mtpa in capacity by 2023-2024.
According to the International Energy Agency, Australia is likely to slip to third place over the course of the next five years as the U.S. brings more production volume online. IEA forecasts that Qatar, the U.S. and Australia will supply nearly two thirds of the rapidly-growing global LNG market by 2023, and American suppliers are expected to capture the largest part of the market's growth, adding some 80 mtpa over the course of five years.