The latest piece of Inpex’s Ichthys project falls into place with the arrival of the Venturer FPSO
The final component of Australia’s mammoth, US$34 billion Ichthys LNG project arrived in Australian waters this month, marking another step in the road towards the country’s incoming LNG boom.
The Ichthys Venturer floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facility left DSME’s yard in South Korea almost a month ago, taking 26 days to reach the country’s territorial waters. At the time of writing the vessel was travelling off the coast of Western Australia to its permanent mooring position in the Browse Basin, about 220 km offshore.
Once the Venturer is moored in position at the Ichthys Field, in water depths of up around 250m, it will commence hook-up and commissioning.
“The safe completion of the 5600 kilometre, 26 day tow of the Ichthys Venturer from South Korea to Australian waters is another significant stride forward for the Ichthys LNG Project,” said the project’s managing director Louis Bon in mid-August. “The Ichthys Venturer is one of the largest and most advanced offshore facilities of its kind in the world, and can accommodate up to 200 people.”
With service required for a 40-year project life in a cyclonic environment, Bon added that the Venturer was “setting new benchmarks for durability.”
The 336m long FPSO can hold up to 1.12 million barrels of condensate, and will process, stabilise and store hydrocarbons delivered from the central processing facility (CPF) Ichthys Explorer, periodically offloading it to tankers for export to market. The CPF is the world’s largest semisubmersible platform, built by Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea, and arrived at its mooring site in the Browse Basin at the end of May.
The Ichthys Field is being developed as part of a joint venture between Japanese operator Inpex and partners Total, CPC from Taiwan and the Australian subsidiaries of Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas, Kansai Electric Power, JERA and Toho Gas. At its peak it is scheduled to produce 8.9 million tonnes of LNG and 1.6 million tonnes of LPG per year, as well as just over 100,000 barrels of condensate per day.
The company announced in January that installation of subsea infrastructure and equipment had been completed successfully, involving a subsea network comprised of a 110-metre high riser support structure, five manifolds, 139 km of flowlines, 49 km of umbilicals and flying leads, 2,640 tonnes of production and MEG spools, five subsea distribution units and a subsea distribution hub.
The network also links to the 890-km export pipeline which will carry gas and condensate to onshore facilities near Darwin.
The arrival of the Venturer is an important milestone for the consortium, especially given the ballooning costs and overruns seen during development of the gigantic project. Since it was approved in 2012, costs have risen by around 10%, and first LNG production is now expected in March 2018 – around a year later than originally envisioned.
It has also added tension to the race between Inpex’s Ichthys and Royal Dutch Shell’s Prelude megaprojects. The latter, a US$12.6 billion, 488m long floating LNG production and processing facility, is one of the largest vessels ever built. Prelude arrived at its destination in the Browse just weeks before the Venturer, in late July. It is expected to start-up in 2018 too, and although Shell has been hesitant to provide a more specific timeline, current estimations suggest it maybe sometime between April and September next year.
Both are certainly engineering accomplishments, but extra prestige may be taken from the consortium which achieves first gas. With all the facilities in the water, the race is now on