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Shell head dismisses floating LNG concerns

The head of Shell in Australia, Ann Pickard, has dismissed claims that floating liquefied natural gas technology is environmentally unsafe.

By Kathryn Diss

The head of Shell in Australia, Ann Pickard, has dismissed claims that floating liquefied natural gas technology is environmentally unsafe.

The WA Premier Colin Barnett has expressed concerns about using floating technology to process LNG from the Browse project, north of Broome.

He says he does not think the technology is safe and has warned of a major oil and gas spill if it is used.

He remains committed to processing the gas onshore at James Price Point.

Shell is a partner in the joint venture and is currently developing a floating LNG platform for its Prelude project offshore from Broome.

The field is considered too far from shore for it to be economically viable to build a pipeline.

Shell is believed to be pushing its Browse partners to consider the floating technology.

And, Ms Pickard disagrees with Mr Barnett’s claims.

“It’s designed around safety, safety is absolutely paramount, protecting the environment, protecting the people is absolutely paramount in the design, so obviously I disagree,” she said.

“Everything we do is focused on prevention to make sure we can stop anything happening, it’s all about prevention.

“If the risks thing happens then we’ve got the cap so I don’t see a Macondo or Montara happening.

“You can’t ever say never but we sure are focusing on the prevention side.”

A rig operated by TransOcean and drilling for BP in the Macondo field in the Gulf of Mexico exploded in 2010, killing 11 workers and causing a massive offshore oil spill.

There was also a massive oil and gas leak at the Montara rig in the Timor Sea off the coast of WA in 2009.

Neither disaster was connected to floating gas processing technology.

Ms Pickard says FLNG technology could prove the saviour of the nation’s industry.

She says processing gas on a floating platform offshore greatly reduces the cost associated with onshore processing, and it could be an option for all offshore projects in WA.

However, she says at this stage, gas from the Browse project is locked into being processed at James Price Point.

“Woodside simply has to comply with the retention lease terms so it’s James Price Point for Browse right now,” she said.

“I think floating is an option for just about anything offshore Australia given the cost structure, so I think floating is potentially the savour of Australia in future LNG.”

Mr Barnett says he remains concerned about the technology.

He says while he supports its use for the development of smaller gas reserves such as Prelude, the potential impacts cannot be ignored.

Mr Barnett says hopefully there will not be an accident but if one occurs, it would cause big issues.

“Should there be an accident – huge difficulties in getting to safety larger numbers of workers and also huge risks in terms of a plume, particularly oil, that might affect the coast,” he said.

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