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December 6, 2021updated 28 Dec 2021 10:11am

Fire shuts down Shell’s Prelude LNG facility – crew evacuated

Shell has shut down its Prelude LNG facility following an electrical fire, in the latest of a series of delays to production at the site.

By Scarlett Evans

Shell’s Prelude – the world’s largest floating LNG vessel – has been shut down since Friday following a fire that started on Thursday night. The exact cause of the blaze, which was started in an electrical utility, is unknown and an investigation has been launched.

In response, 150 of the vessel’s crew were evacuated, though a Shell spokesperson has said a “skeleton crew” remains on board.

“The incident resulted in the loss of main power and the facility is currently operating on back-up diesel generators,” the spokesperson said. “While work is underway to restore main power, production on Prelude has been suspended temporarily.”

Estimations of when operations may be expected to resume have not yet been given.

Concerns over global gas supplies as we enter the holiday season have exacerbated fears over the implications of the shut down, and the incident has led to speculation on whether expected cargos from the facility will be delayed or cancelled entirely, though no details have yet been confirmed.

The news marks the second LNG production outage in Australia, following Chevron’s announcement that it had suspended operations at the third 5.2mn t/yr liquefaction train due to pipe damage.

The Prelude facility, located in northwest Australia, marked a mammoth undertaking, costing between $12bn-$17bn for its 488m-long, 74m-wide bulk and anticipated to produce 3.6 million tonnes of LNG each year. Full capacity has never been reached however, and production has been hobbled by delays.

Operations only resumed at the site in January this year following an 11-month closure due to electrical issues and three incidents that the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority described as “dangerous occurrences”.

Workers at the site also issued an official complaint in July this year over breaches to health and safety, claiming they were made to work on only a few hours of sleep. Such obstacles have led some to question the efficacy of the project, though opinions are mixed given the complex nature of the technology.

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