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WHEN IS a ship more than a ship? When it’s the Prelude F.L.N.G. There’s fascinating technology in this Floating Liquefied Natural Gas facility, described in “The Biggest Ship in the World,” by Robert Sullivan, in The New York Times Magazine, November 2, 2014. And, because of its huge size, there’s also fascinating technology in the article’s photography by Stephen Mallon and through Google Maps.
Samsung Heavy Industries makes large ships and drilling platforms on Geoje Island, about an hour’s flight south-southeast of Seoul, Korea.
Isn’t it amazing? It’s only a couple clicks to a satellite view of this Samsung ship building facility where Prelude is under construction.
There are other ships and drilling platforms nearby to put Prelude’s size in perspective. Telling references are the size of helipads on neighboring vessels.
Robert Sullivan cites amazing statistics in his article. The Prelude is more than quarter-mile in length, more than five football fields, longer than the Empire State Building is tall. It’s constructed of more steel than was used in the entire original World Trade Center complex. When completed, it’ll displace as much water as six aircraft carriers.
Once towed to a location, the Prelude is kept oriented optimally for weather conditions by three 6700-hp thrusters. It also has four groups of mooring chains, each link of which is more than 3 ft. long.
Paradoxically, miniaturization of hardware was an important design criterion. Despite its size, the facility is much smaller and more environmentally friendly than a landlocked counterpart.
The Prelude’s relative mobility permits exploitation of “stranded” deposits of natural gas. This is the sort of gas that’s typically flared off at oil drilling sites because it’s economically infeasible to recover it with a conventional fixed facility.
The Browse Basin in the Indian Ocean, northwest of Australia, contains an estimated 3 trillion cu. ft. of natural gas. (To put this amount in perspective, the U.S. Energy Information Administration noted that, as of December 2012, proved reserves of natural gas in the U.S. were 323 trillion cu. ft.)
The Australian Northwest Shelf will be Prelude’s home, for a time, with Shell Oil having the largest stake in the project.
To illustrate The New York Times Magazine article, photographer Stephen Mallon worked two days on a pair of Prelude cranes, one fore and the other aft. He took more than 1000 images, later pieced together with Photoshop and adjusted to correct for distortion produced by wide-angle lenses shooting multiple perspectives.
By contrast, it was easy-peasy for me to stitch together his ten images appearing in “The Biggest Ship in the World.” And I certainly agree with the article’s title. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014