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Shell’s ill-fated $14bn gamble on Titanic Prelude FLNG Barge

The Prelude, which is 488m long, arrived in Australia last month © PA

By John Donovan

Shell’s Prelude barge has been described as the biggest floating structure ever built and is said to be 12 times the size of the Titanic. It is a comparison that for obvious reasons Shell does not use, although others do. There have been far more dire warnings about the dangers attached to Prelude than were made about the Titanic’s maiden voyage before it tragically sunk. Most have come from a well-placed insider on the Prelude project and subsequently from Bill Campbell, the retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International.

Confidence in the project seems to have ebbed away. Even David Bird, vice-president of production at Shell Australia who is managing the commissioning of Prelude seems less than enthusiastic.

Shell has not revealed how many billions it has sunk into the project.

According to an informative article published by the FT, the sum at risk is $14bn, up from original estimates of $12bn. Shell takes $14bn gas gamble with world’s biggest floating structure

The FT says:

“…the collapse in oil prices, new supplies of cheap shale gas in the US and cost overruns experienced with Prelude have caused the cancellation of several FLNG orders, raising questions about the viability of the technology“.  “..Shell decided not to proceed with orders for three FLNG facilities from Samsung…”

Prelude seems to be taking on water before it has even safely moored up.

God forbid, if a disaster does occur, the numerous persistent warnings published on this website will be available for all to see. They are attached like an albatross to Prelude and those responsible. Lets hope for the sake of employees/contractors, the local population and the environment, that Shell’s gamble does not come spectacularly unstuck.


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One Comment

  1. Bill Campbell says:

    If FLNG has a future remains to be seen. It is under any measure an outstanding technical achievement. My only concern is the misplaced statements by RDS and Shell Australia on the risks. Doomcaster and I are in agreement, there is and always will be during the commissioning and steady state operation a risk of leakage so we can say the probability side of the risk equation is well understood. Whether it be human failure or otherwise leaks are difficult to avoid. The best database for leaks in the World is the homogeneous population of over 200 North Sea installations covered in HSE data which confirms in 11 years of operation that leakage frequency has a mean time between failures of circa 3 days. My problem is with the huge inventory and congested space is that Shell seriously downplays the potential consequence side of the risk equation. Post Piper Alpha and post Seveso there are two principal risk reducers, reduced inventory (fuel) and lots of space seperating modules from each other, from human habitation, control rooms, admin blocks, and from storage tanks. After all is said and done who would build a hotel and a heliport, and a dock, besides or within 100 metres of a hazardous substances plant. It would simply not be allowed on land. This is what makes Prelude so risky.

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