World's largest ship, Shell's floating LNG vessel Prelude, heading to WA


IT makes the Sydney Opera House, London Eye and Taj Mahal look like doll houses, contains five times more steel than the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is almost twice as long as the Titanic and 2 1/2 times as wide.

Feast your eyes on Prelude — the biggest vessel the world has ever seen.

Since the end of last month, four tugs have been towing the 488m long and 74m wide facility from a South Korean shipyard to the WA coast.

Prelude is due to arrive at the Prelude Offshore Gas Field at Browse Basin, 475km north-east of Broome, in the next couple of weeks and will call WA waters homes for the next 20 to 25 years.

Energy giant Shell commissioned South Korea’s Technip Samsung Consortium to build the US$12 billion-plus behemoth, which will be used to extract, liquefy and store gas at sea before it is exported to customers across the globe.

Prelude is part of a new wave of doing business in the oil and gas industry because it compresses a traditional land-based LNG plant into a tighter, mobile package. It also removes the need for long underwater pipelines since it can be positioned directly over remote offshore gas fields.

David Bird, Shell Australia’s Prelude vice-president, said when the floating liquefied natural gas facility (FLNG) arrives, 16 pre-positioned mooring chains will be lifted from the seabed and secured to it.

Shell's Prelude leaving the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje, South Korea.

The chains are connected to anchor piles that are 65m long and 5.5m in diameter. The piles have been driven into the seabed above the gas field to keep Prelude securely in position.

About 120 Australian crew members lived on the giant barge — which has the capacity to produce at least 5.3million tonnes per annum of liquids — while it was at Geoje Shipyards in South Korea to learn all about its intricacies.

“This is an exciting time for Australia as Prelude will provide hundreds of skilled jobs for local workers,” Mr Bird said.

The Prelude is almost twice as long as the Titanic and 2 1/2 times as wide.

“Jobs will include more than 200 on board the facility during operations and over 1500 jobs during the hook-up and commissioning phase of the project.”

The hook-up and commissioning phase of the project is expected to take nine to 12 months. The floating facility has individual accommodation for the full workforce and a city-quality internet connection — perks rarely enjoyed by those working in the offshore oil and gas sector.

The control centre is in a custom-built office within Shell’s Perth CBD headquarters. Workers throughout the company are reportedly lining up to be part of the action.


How the Shell Prelude compares to other structures around the world.


  • The Prelude reportedly cost more than $US12 billion to build and is 488 metres long and 74 metres wide.
  • It’s due to be moored 475km north-east of Broome and expected to stay in this location for 20 to 25 years.
  • 6700 horsepower thrusters will be used to position the facility.
  • More than 600 engineers worked on the Prelude’s design options.
  • 175 Olympic-sized swimming pools would be required to hold the same amount of liquid as the Prelude’s storage tanks.
  • Four soccer fields laid end-to-end would be shorter than the Prelude’s deck.
  • 500 million litres of cold water will be drawn from the ocean every hour to help cool the natural gas.
  • Six of the world’s biggest aircraft carriers would be needed to displace the same amount of water as the Prelude.
  • It took 260,000 tonnes of steel to build — five times that used on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • The flare tower that extends off the bow is half the height of the Eiffel Tower and 40 per cent of its weight.
  • The chains used to anchor the Prelude are 17km long. Each link is one metre long and weighs a tonne.
  • 120 Australian crew members were living in Geoje, South Korea, to learn the ins and outs of the Prelude while it was being built.
  • The facility’s production capacity is at least 5.3 million tonnes per annum of liquids (3.6Mtpa of LNG, 1.3Mtpa of condensate and 0.4Mtpa of LPG).
  • The hook-up and commissioning phase of the project is expected to take nine to 12 months.