Milestone as Prelude sends off its first cargo of gas
Almost two years after sailing into Australian waters Shell’s giant Prelude — the biggest offshore facility ever built — has shipped its first cargo of LNG.
The Spanish carrier Valencia Knutsen left Prelude, 475km north-east of Broome, on Monday night with a full load of LNG for customers in Asia.
Maarten Wetselaar, Shell gas and new energies director, said it was an important milestone for the project. “Today’s first shipment of LNG departed from Prelude FLNG, safely,” Mr Wetselaar said. “Everyone involved should be very proud of the work taken to reach this important milestone.”
The Valencia Knutsen was alongside the 488m-long Prelude for 21⁄2 days, according to vessel tracking website MarineTraffic.
The Korean-built Prelude, the biggest and perhaps most complex offshore facility in the world, had problems mooring vessels alongside it last year.
Prelude must load a carrier every five to seven days — a process planned to take about 15 hours — to produce its nameplate capacity of 3.6 million tonnes a year of LNG.
Shell vice-president for Prelude Rob Jager said in May that Prelude’s role as an open-sea port was probably the most unique and underrated aspect of the facility.
“We continue to have to work through to make sure that it gives us a safe, sustainable, predictable way of offloading,” he said. “Because ultimately, it’s going to be a bit of a production line once this thing is stable and up and running.”
Wood Mackenzie analyst Daniel Toleman said Shell would hope to get to full production fast to minimise the loss of reserves to the nearby Ichthys project because the fields were connected. “How fast Prelude delivers its second and third cargo, and ramps up to plateau output, will be a key indicator of success,” he said.
Mr Toleman said the completion of Prelude marked the end of Australia’s greenfield LNG boom, which included the Gorgon, Wheatstone and Ichthys projects.
The Prelude crew gather on the helideck to farewell the Valencia Knutsen, the first to take a load of LNG from the facility.