Australia’s move towards becoming a major producer of liquefied natural gas has moved a step closer with the launching in Korea of the world’s largest floating vessel.
The vessel, called the Prelude, is so large that if stood up, it would be 1,601 feet tall, reaching higher into the sky than the Empire State Building. It won’t be able to travel under its own power but used as a floating island about 300 miles off the coast of western Australia.
NPR of the US reports that the 600,000-ton Prelude will serve as a liquefied natural gas, or LNG, facility, which lets the company tap into the natural gas deep at sea. The gas will then be chilled into a liquid, which makes the gas easier to store and ship.
Smaller ships will come and pick up the natural gas and transport it to customers. Shell’s Prelude is so huge it can store enough liquefied natural gas (LNG) to fill 175 Olympic swimming pools. It will stay in place during stormy weather and is built to withstand a category five cyclone, according to the company.
The Prelude will allow Shell to tap into natural gas reserves that have previously been too expensive to extract, according to Kayla Macke, a U.S. spokeswoman for the company.
She declined to comment on the cost of the drilling project, but noted that Samsung, the South Korea company that built the Prelude, put the cost of the vessel at $3 billion back in 2011.
Macke says the Prelude will be similar to the offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, adding there will likely to be around 100 workers who will perform two-week shifts at sea before heading back to shore.