Shell floats hull for world's largest ship
The 488-metre-long hull of Shell’s Prelude floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility was floated out of the dry dock last week at the Samsung Heavy Industries yard in Geoje, South Korea, where the massive ship is under construction.
Once complete, Prelude FLNG will be the largest floating facility ever built. It will be moored off the coast of Australia and should produce approximately 3.6 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per annum.
“This is revolutionary technology developed by Shell,” says Neil Gilmour, vice president, Shell Integrated Gas Development. “It has the potential to change the way we produce natural gas.”
Prelude FLNG is the first deployment of Shell’s FLNG technology and will operate in a remote basin around 475 kilometres north-east of Broome, Western Australia for around 25 years. The facility will remain onsite during all weather events, having been designed to withstand a category 5 cyclone.
FLNG will allow Shell to produce natural gas at sea, turn it into liquefied natural gas and then transfer it directly to the ships that will transport it to customers. It will enable the development of gas resources ranging from clusters of smaller more remote fields to potentially larger fields via multiple facilities where, for a range of reasons, an onshore development is not viable.
“This has never been done before,” says Neil. “We had to find ways to adapt our technology for off shore.”
Huge and compact
Once complete, the facility will have decks measuring 488 by 74 meters, the length of more than four soccer fields. With its cargo tanks full it will weigh roughly six times as much as the largest aircraft carrier.
More than 600 people around the world spent over 1.6 million hours working on different design options for the facility.
Despite its impressive proportions, the facility is one-quarter the size of an equivalent plant on land. Engineers have designed components that will stack vertically to save space. The operating plant, for example, will be placed above LNG storage tanks.
They also came up with the idea of tapping the cold of the ocean depths by pumping water to help cool the gas, avoiding the need to for extra equipment on deck. “For LNG you need a cooling medium, like in your fridge at home,” says Neil. “We’ve invented a system to take water from deep in the ocean.”
An assembly of eight one-meter diameter pipes will extend from the facility to about 150 meters below the ocean’s surface. It will deliver around 50,000 m3 of cold seawater each hour. This helps to cool the gas from below the facility, saving deck space.
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The FLNG facility is designed to operate and stay safely moored even in the most extreme weather conditions. The sheer size of the full-scale facility will help it to withstand very high winds and giant waves. In addition, it will be secured in place by one of the largest mooring systems in the world.
A 93-metre (305-foot) high turret, spacious enough to house the Arc de Triomphe, will run through the facility. Four groups of mooring lines will anchor it to the seabed.
The system allows the facility to turn slowly in the wind – absorbing the impact of strong weather conditions – while remaining moored over the gas field. It can stay safely moored at sea even during the most powerful cyclones.
This saves valuable production days that would otherwise be lost on disconnecting the facility and moving it off the field.
Three 6,700-horsepower thrusters will sit in the rear of the facility. Two of these will operate at any one time to turn the facility out of the wind and allow LNG carriers to pull safely alongside to load.
The facility’s storage tanks will be below deck. They can store up to 220,000 m3 of LNG, 90,000 m3 of LPG, and 126,000 m3 of condensate. The total storage capacity is equivalent to around 175 Olympic swimming pools.
Shell is the operator of Prelude FLNG in joint venture with INPEX (17.5 percent), KOGAS (10 percent) and OPIC (5 percent), working with long-term strategic partners Technip and Samsung Heavy Industries (the Technip Samsung Consortium).
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.