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Shell ordered to shut down Prelude floating LNG until it is safe


Shell ordered to shut down Prelude floating LNG until it is safe

By Peter Milne

Australia’s offshore safety regulator has ordered Shell to shut down its giant Prelude floating LNG vessel off Western Australia’s North West coast while damning the company’s ability to operate the facility after it descended into chaos in early December following a series of power failures.

The direction from regulator NOPSEMA means Prelude, the biggest floating vessel ever built, will be shut down until Shell can convince them there will be no repeat of the recent dangerous episode.

The power problems that started on December 2 impacted the Prelude’s ability to respond to emergencies, operate safety equipment and evacuate personnel, according to a direction published by NOPSEMA on Friday.

“The failure to restore reliable power was seen to represent an ongoing impact and risk to the health and safety of the personnel on the facility,” it read.

After visiting the 488m-long vessel NOPSEMA inspectors concluded Shell “did not have a sufficient understanding of the risks of the power system on the facility, including failure mechanisms, interdependencies and recovery.”

In short, Shell did not know what it was doing regarding the complex equipment meant to provide safe and reliable power to its $24 billion investment that floats of Australia’s north-west coast.

The power problems affected systems vital for the welfare of the 250 workers on the Prelude at the time, including lighting, running water, toilets, ventilation and air conditioning. Seven crew members were treated for heat exhaustion.

The operation of equipment required to properly manage the liquified natural gas stored in Prelude’s vast tanks was also impacted.

NOPSEMA has directed Shell to review what happened on the Prelude between December 2 and 6 and then develop a detailed plan to implement “all necessary corrective actions.”

Shell cannot return the Prelude to production until it convinces the regulator it can safely recover essential power and other essential services after a loss of power.

The regulator clearly expects the Prelude to be shut down for some months as Shell must provide monthly reports on its progress from early March 2022.

This means its capacity to produce 3.6 million tonnes of LNG a year will likely be unavailable for some months, further tightening the already stretched global LNG market.

NOPSEMA rejected an investigation planned by Shell as inadequate as it was not going to include a thorough review of the root cause of the December 2 failure or assess the risk of future similar occurrences.

Since arriving in Australian waters 4½ years ago the Prelude has experienced multiple significant technical problems and many periods without production.

In March 2020 NOPSEMA directed Shell to improve its procedures for safely isolating equipment on the Prelude before maintenance occurs after two dangerous incidents, one involving high-pressure liquid and the other a release of gas.

Peter Milne covers business for WAtoday, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald with a focus on WA energy, mining, construction and property. Connect via Twitter or email.


How Shell lost control of its $24b Prelude floating gas factory




The links below are to a series of articles, many triggered by a well-placed whistleblower directly involved in the pioneering Royal Dutch Shell Prelude project. Includes articles by Mr Bill Campbell above, the retired distinguished HSE Group Auditor of Shell International and another retired Shell guru with a track record of spotting potential pitfalls in major Shell projects.

ARTICLE: Voser wisely abandons an unstable ship: 28 December 2013

ARTICLE: Royal Dutch Shell Prelude to disaster?: 10 Jan 2014

ARTICLE: Shell Prelude FLNG: loss of containment of hydrocarbons almost inevitable: 21 Feb 2014

ARTICLE: What should frighten stiff Royal Dutch Shell shareholders: 15 March 2014

ARTICLE: Tales of the Unexpected and Royal Dutch Shell Prelude FLNG: 28 March 2014

ARTICLE: Prelude FLNG: A case of all your eggs in the one basket: 10 July 2014

ARTICLE: Prelude FLNG risks are on par with modern offshore oil and gas facilities say Shell – but are they?: 23 Sept 2014

ARTICLE: Royal Dutch Shell Prelude Project ‘A Step Too Far’: 25 Sept 2014

ARTICLE: SpaceShip Two: Shell Prelude another pioneering venture fraught with risk: 2 November 2014

ARTICLE: WA turns spotlight on FLNG safety: 11 November 2014

ARTICLE: Prelude a giant production and processing barge masquerading as a ship: 11 November 2014

ARTICLE: Sunday Times Article: Prelude a potential white elephant: 11 November 2014

ARTICLE: Damning Verdict on Shell’s Prelude FLNG Propaganda: 12 November 2014

ARTICLE: Combustible pioneering behemoths – the Hindenburg and Shell Prelude: 21 November 2014

ARTICLE: Key role of Shell lawyers in pioneering Shell Prelude FLNG: 05 December 2014

ARTICLE: The Future of Natural Gas: LNG vs. FLNG: 26 Feb 2015

ARTICLE: The Sydney Morning Herald: WA inquiry shines spotlight on floating LNG safety fears: 8 May 2015

ARTICLE: THE WEST AUSTRALIAN: Delays slow Prelude’s sail-away: 11 April 2016

ARTICLE: THE WEST AUSTRALIAN: Gas industry needs to work harder, innovate: Shell boss: 12 April 2016

ARTICLE: ENERGY VOICE: GE starts production on Shell’s Prelude risers, must withstand a 1-in-10,000-year cyclonic event: 11 April 2016

ARTICLE: THE AUSTRALIAN: Shell chief Ben van Beurden backs FLNG program:13 April 2016

ARTICLE: THE WEST AUSTRALIAN: Enthusiasm cools for Prelude FLNG: 13 April 2016

ARTICLE: BY JOHN DONOVAN: Musings about the OPL 245 Shell/ENI corruption scandal and the sinking confidence in Prelude: 13 April 2016

ARTICLE: BY BILL CAMPBELL: Project Prelude – A case study in the generation of real material debt: 17 April 2016/a>

Hazardex: Shell Australia’s giant Prelude floating LNG project likely to come on stream in 2017: 20 Sept 2016 and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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