DASH FOR GAS
Come 2020, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) will notch another milestone in the production of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) when its second floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility becomes operational.
Called PFLNG-2 – the initial P for Petronas, `2’ to denote its second iteration – the floating vessel will enable liquefaction, production and offloading of natural gas in the Rotan field, 240 kilometres off Sabah upon completion.
Malaysia – through Petronas, is only one of a handful of countries or major oil and gas companies that opted to embark on this pioneering method of unlocking gas resources from offshore gas fields that may be considered marginal or too challenging to exploit.
Using FLNG allows Petronas to unlock remote or `stranded’ fields that lends itself to continued exploitation using ground breaking technology.
At the start, the race to produce LNG by this pioneering method was between Petronas and Shell. It was Petronas that won the distinction of being first off the mark as Shell’s larger vessel took longer time to build and tow to its operational location off the Australian west coast.
Petronas’ first floater – so-called as it is an out and out floating platform since the vessel cannot sail under its own steam – named PFLNG-1 has already operating and yielding LNG at a location 180 km off the coast of Bintulu in the Kanowit gas field in the South China sea since 2016.
Petronas loaded its first cargo from PFLNG1 in April last year, becoming the first company to produce LNG from a floating production unit. It raised the LNG production capacity by 1.2 million tonnes a year (mpta), boosting the country’s production then from 26.9 mtpa from 25.7 mtpa.
Construction of PFLNG-2 is underway and on schedule at the Samsung Heavy Industry yard on Geoje Island, South Korea. Once this `floater’ is ready for `sail away’ to the Murphy-operated Rotan field in Block H, 240 kilometres off the Sabah coast in the South China sea, it will boost Malaysia’s total production capacity of LNG by another 1.5 mtpa.
FLNG vessels look like ships but stacked with all manner of cranes and multi-tiered steel structures the entire length from fore to aft on deck. In reality, it is not unlike an LNG plant on land but FLNGs float and operate from a `parked’ position in a location far out in gas fields offshore.
During his technical presentation at the 2018 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), Petronas' Vice President LNG Upstream Adnan Zainal Abidin pointed out the differences that sets out PFLNG1 from PFLNG2 and of the lessons taken on board resulting in changes made in the design and construction of its second floater.
Adnan added PLFNG-2’s designed production capacity of 1.5 mtpa makes it heavier than the first floater. It also uses a higher-powered gas turbine, the LM6000, for the refrigerant, compared with the LM2500 unit of the first floater.
The lifetime of each FLNG is designed for up to 25 years. There is therefore the possibility that both of Petronas’ floating assets can be `leased’ out to other operators depending on the circumstances. It is learnt that Petronas has indeed been approached on just such a possibility.
Apart from the LNG fields off East Malaysia, the Indian Ocean fields off the Australian west coast is the focus of the rest of the world’s `floater armada’.
Royal Dutch Shell operated the biggest floater in the world – Prelude FLNG, while Inpex of Japan is also eyeing the same location.
Prelude is now on location, 475km north-north east of Broome, Western Australia, where the next phase of the project begins. Once operating, Prelude FLNG will produce and liquefy natural gas from the Browse Basin.