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Tech firms jostle for a slice of the FLNG pie

BHGE, Black and Veatch, TechnipFMC and a host of other firms are honing their FLNG products

The long-awaited flowering of the floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) sector has finally arrived. This has triggered a rush among technology firms to establish themselves as suppliers of choice to projects that could underpin their earnings for years to come.

Early industry front runners such as Petronas' PFLNG Satu and Shell's Prelude facilities were designed by in-house teams led by the field operators. But several FLNG projects slated for coming years look set to use lower-cost facilities supplied by specialist plant developers, using generic, easily replicable and scalable components. Technology firms hope that by winning early contracts for these mini-production lines, they'll be well placed to secure a permanent niche in the supply chain.

For example, Black and Veatch has been collaborating with FLNG vessel developer Golar and the Keppel shipyard in Singapore since 2011 to develop its PRICO liquefaction units. The first commercial offshore field-based outing for the technology was on the Kribi development in Cameroon waters. Golar's Hilli Espiseyo FLNG facility, with a capacity of 1.2m tonnes a year, started test production there earlier this year and was due to ship its first cargo in May.

The first few months of operation will be crucial to future business for both Golar and Black and Veatch. If it works well, the technology is likely to be used in a series of other projects lined up to use Golar conversions from LNG tankers, and become cheaper over time as experience grows. The Kribi facility is believed to have cost around $1.2bn.

Compact designs

Black and Veatch hope the modular, compact design of its liquefaction units will be attractive, as the technology can easily be adapted to different production capacity requirements. Future deployments of the Golar/Black and Veatch collaboration could include BP's Greater Tortue/Ahmeyim field development, which exploits more than 20 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves lying across the Mauritania-Senegal border. BP is considering producing 2.5m t/y via FLNG from 2021, with the possibility of bringing in more FLNG vessels later.

Golar recently signed a preliminary agreement with BP to provide the first FLNG facility, if a positive final investment decision is taken later this year. BP also recently awarded a front-end engineering and design contract to TechnipFMC for the floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel to be used in the field development.

The gas reserves to be tapped from the first four wells are in water depth of 2,700 metres, around 120km (75 miles) offshore. But one plan is to pipe the gas 80-100km to the FPSO, before sending the processed gas via a 35km pipeline to the FLNG facility for export. That could be moored just 10km offshore in 25-35 metres of water, probably sheltered behind a breakwater. This novel arrangement reflects one of the shortcomings of mid-sized FLNG-to work properly, it needs relatively calm seas, which limit its use to relatively nearshore locations.

A consortium of McDermott and GE's Baker Hughes (BHGE) also won a FEED contract for the Tortue/Ahmeyim, covering its subsea umbilical, riser and flowline package and subsea production systems.

Coral South takes shape

Both BHGE and TechnipFMC—an early FLNG technology pioneer—are also playing a major role across the continent in the Eni-led Coral South development off Mozambique. Here they're using a 3.4m-t/y FLNG facility to take gas from six subsea wells. JGC Corporation, TechnipFMC and Samsung Heavy Industries are building the facility. BHGE has been awarded a series of contracts to supply technology.

These include four turbo-compression trains for mix refrigeration services, four turbo-generation units, and boil-off gas (BOG) and booster compressors competent to operate at minus 180°C to re-liquefy excessive BOG that escapes from the LNG storage tanks. Coral South is scheduled to start operations in mid-2022 and produce some 5 trillion cf of gas over 25 years.

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