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The Many Growing Pains of Shell’s Prelude FLNG Continue

The Many Growing Pains of Shell’s Prelude FLNG Continue

Journal of Petroleum Technology

Once heralded as an engineering marvel, it has now become one of the biggest engineering disappointments in recent history. This is the story so far of Shell’s Prelude floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) plant which suffered a new setback last month after it was ordered to halt production following an onboard fire.

According to multiple reports, the fire occurred in the late evening hours of 2 December and caused a complete power outage on the facility where around 200 personnel live and work. Over the next 3 days, the crew made multiple attempts to regain power but were successful only in restoring intermittent power.

The incident prompted an onboard inspection and investigation by Australia’s National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), which on 23 December ordered the supermajor not resume production.

Shell must now prove to the regulator that Prelude can safely recover from such power losses in the future before it can resume gas production.

Based on its initial investigation, NOPSEMA concluded that “the operator did not have a sufficient understanding of the risks of the power system on the facility, including failure mechanisms, interdependencies, and recovery.”

Shell is conducting its own investigation into what happened on Prelude; however, NOPSEMA argued that Shell’s internal investigation is lacking a “thorough review of the evidence and root cause analysis of the entire series of events experienced during the incident.”

The regulator also noted that Shell’s investigation as proposed does not include a review of the risks that could lead to a similar repeat accident, nor the mitigation of such identified risks.




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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