Natural Gas Ahoy

on May 20, 2011 at 11:40 AM

From far away, it may appear no different than any other oversized ship in the yard.

Shell announced on Friday that it would be building the world’s first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility, located some 125 miles off Australia’s shores and estimated to be 1,600 feet long and weigh 600,000 tons when filled to capacity.

“Our innovative FLNG technology will allow us to develop offshore gas fields that otherwise would be too costly to develop,” said Shell’s Executive Director Malcolm Brinded.

The mostly steel (260,000 tons of it to be exact) FLNG facility will connect with Shell offshore pumps and immediately cool the gas to liquid form at –260 degrees Farenheit. There it will also be stored until its ready for shipment.

Natural gas is considered a relatively clean energy source and will, according to Brinded, allow Shell to “meet the world’s growing demand for the cleanest-burning fossil fuel.”

“This will be a game changer for the energy industry,” said Shell’s Australia Country Chair, Ann Pickard.

With the recent Fukushima nuclear disaster, natural gas has become an increasingly important global resource to the energy industry. The fuel has gained further popularity in the US with recent discoveries of natural gas stores in the US and the Energy Information Administration estimates a US country total of 2,587 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) recoverable gas on and off shore.

It may be only a few years before the FLNG technology is deployed in waters across the globe.

“Beyond this, our ambition is to develop more FLNG projects globally,” Brinded said. “We see opportunities around the world to work on other FLNG projects with governments, energy companies and customers.”

The next location-if it exists-remains a mystery.