World’s Largest Floating Object Would Be Cool If It Weren’t Shell’s Natural Gas Refinery

by , 05/23/11
filed under: News

shell, floating natural gas refinery, world's largest floating object, sustainable design, eco-design, green design, australia, titanic, cyclones, steel, Prelude FLNG

We were excited when we heard that Shell is building the world’s largest floating object – until we realized that it is going to be a natural gas refinery. Albeit an engineering feat that is supposed to withstand category five cyclones, after a long history of Titanics, Fukushimas, and Deepwater Horizons, having an explosive floating gas refinery in our already compromised oceans makes us more than a little concerned. Called the Prelude FLNG, the massive refinery/city will be moored in Australia’s North West coast.

shell, floating natural gas refinery, world's largest floating object, sustainable design, eco-design, green design, australia, titanic, cyclones, steel, Prelude FLNG

Spotted over at DVICE, this story troubles us on a variety of levels. Not only will the floating refinery, which is bigger than the most obnoxious tanker conceivable, require an extraordinary amount of natural resources to build, including 260,000 tons of steel, but the 1,600 foot long monster will hover over off Australia’s coast for 25 years. There it will suck up refined gas and cool it down to -260 degrees Fahrenheit in order to make it fit for storage and then transport.

Although technologically impressive, this latest news from Shell demonstrates how tenaciously big oil corporations intend to hang on to our fossil-fueled lifestyles (at the expense of every living creature, every untouched landscape, and every clear sky). The monetary and intellectual capital investment behind this giant vessel would be so much better spent on developing alternative energy resources that don’t destroy our planet. Destruction… er, we mean, construction is expected to be complete by 2017.

+ Shell


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  1. Tafline Laylin May 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    That’s not true. So much of what we really promote are structures that use recycled or renewable materials… (though I agree some of them are not renewable). That being said, I think we’re comparing apples and oranges, right?

  2. Shell Dialogues May 24, 2011 at 9:46 am

    If you would like to discuss Floating LNG, or to have a broader discussion about technology and natural gas, please visit Shell’s online forum where we are currently discussing ‘How can technology help to unlock the world’s gas resources?’ It would be great to hear your comments.

  3. caeman May 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

    High rise buildings use finite resources, yet you don’t complain about them. This ship represents a reusable structure to more efficiently get to the natural gas, without harmful dericks and unsafe platforms.

  4. Tafline Laylin May 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Fair enough Chad and Josh. But why spend so much money on a finite resource?

  5. caeman May 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Careful there, Ms. Laylin. Your Journalistic Integrity seems to be lacking in this one. The ship is every Enviro-Hippy’s wet dream.
    1) It isn’t nuclear.
    2) It looks to be self-sufficient to itself for energy.
    3) It doesn’t touch a single forest or protected land.
    4) It brings us a source of energy that cleanly and efficiently heats millions of homes at a cost that the low and no income can afford.

  6. lazyreader May 23, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    What did you think Shell was gonna build. Before natural gas can be used as a fuel, it must undergo processing to remove almost all materials other than methane. The by-products of that processing include ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes, and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, elemental sulfur, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and sometimes helium and nitrogen. We’re certainly not running out of gas; we have gas fields that will last centuries. Natural gas burns more cleanly than other Hydrocarbon fuels, such as oil and coal, and produces less carbon dioxide per unit of energy released. For an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30% less carbon dioxide than burning petroleum and about 45% less than burning coal. Onsite refining has advantages. Because all processing is done at the gas field, there is no requirement for long pipelines to shore, compression units to pump the gas to shore, dredging and jetty construction, and onshore construction of an LNG processing plant, which significantly reduces the environmental footprint. Avoiding construction also helps preserve marine and coastal environments. In addition, environmental disturbance will be minimised during decommissioning because the facility can easily be disconnected and removed before being refurbished and re-deployed elsewhere.

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