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Shell’s Prelude Extended Vacation

Floating off the coast of Western Australia like a lost whale, the UK-based behemoth initially planned a few months of spa time for the FLNG starting in August. But, as with all things Shell, it’s not that simple.

Posted by John Donovan: 14 November 2023

Shell, the ever-so-efficient energy giant, has extended the maintenance of its colossal Prelude floating LNG producer. Why, you ask? Because they’ve just now noticed some extra work that needs doing. Talk about being late to the party.

A Shell spokesperson, likely spinning a globe to find where the Prelude is, commented, “Prelude is a complex facility in a remote offshore location.” Ah, the old ‘it’s complex and far away’ line – a classic! They added, “We continue to work through the process methodically taking as much time as required to ensure safe execution of all activities.” Translation: We’re taking our sweet time.

But wait, there’s more! “During the turnaround, additional scopes of work were identified,” said the spokesperson. In other words, they found more stuff to fix. This surprise to-do list means the restart date is anyone’s guess, and the Shell spokesperson conveniently declined to comment on when that might be.

Remember, this is the same FLNG that was supposed to be back in business in 2022 but got delayed to August 2023 due to a bit of industrial action and pesky cyclones. And let’s not forget the spokesperson’s proud claim that Prelude’s performance has “improved considerably” since its start-up. Well, the bar wasn’t exactly high, considering the FLNG’s history of delays, a fire, and other fun interruptions.

This 488-meter-long, 74-meter-wide floating behemoth, which started shipping its first cargo in 2019 after several delays, boasts the capacity to produce a whole lot of LNG, condensate, and LPG. Shell, holding a 67.5 percent stake in this floating festival of delays, shares the joy with Japan’s Inpex, South Korea’s Kogas, and Taiwan’s CPC.

In a twist no one saw coming, Shell managed to resume cargo loading last September after a strike, only to shut down again in December due to a fire, then briefly stop production in May due to a ‘trip’ (whatever that means), before resuming two days later. At this rate, Prelude might just set a record for the most ‘start-stop’ operations in maritime history!

So, as Shell’s Prelude continues its extended maintenance vacation, we can only wonder what other surprises they’ll find. Stay tuned for the next episode of “Shell’s Adventures in Maintenance Land.”

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