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Floating LNG: The Final Frontier Of The Gas Age
Big Gav, Peak Energy
Shell recently announced that their Prelude floating LNG project off north west Western Australia has passed another milestone, with the $US12.6 billion ($11.8bn) project receiving final investment approval.
Prelude is expected to produce 3.6 million tonnes per annum of LNG, as well as 1.3 million tonnes of condensate and 400,000 tonnes of LPG.
The facility is scheduled to begin production in 2016. The gas will be cooled by cold water pumped from about 150m below the ocean’s surface - allowing around 50,000 m3 of cold seawater each hour to cool the gas.
The project will be the world’s floating LNG development and the facility will be the largest floating structure ever built. The vessel will be built by South Korea's Samsung Heavy Industries. At 488 metres long, 74 metres wide and 600,000-tonne in weight it will be longer than four soccer fields laid end-to-end and will be six times heavier than the world's largest aircraft carrier.
The vessel will be permanently moored about 200km off the coast for its 25 years of production and is designed to withstand severe category 5 cyclones (or a “one-in-10,000-year" tropical cyclone, as Shell executive director Malcolm Brinded put it).
Shell has self-insured the project, so its not clear what the view of maritime insurers is of the likelihood of the project suffering significant damage during its lifetime is.
In Australia we’ve seen onshore natural gas largely depleted, near offshore natural gas well developed (the north west shelf LNG operation has now been in operation for decades and long-stalled projects like Gorgon are now well underway), a boom in coal seam gas and emerging interest in exploiting shale gas (local producers seem to view speculation that US shale gas production will undermine Australian LNG export markets in Asia as unfounded, notwithstanding the strong Australian dollar) and biogas.
Research by the CSIRO in 2008 found that up to half Australia's natural gas resources (140 trillion cubic feet) could not be developed because they were too remote to be connected to onshore processing plants.
Floating LNG platforms remove this barrier and would seem to be the final stage of our entry into what has been dubbed by some (including the IEA [pdf]) as "The Gas Age" (I guess you could view the fossil fuel era as an act in 3 parts, similar to the era of the dinosaurs, with the coal age being analagous to the Triassic period, the oil age to the Jurassic and the gas age echoing the Cretaceous, with the end of the era approaching).
(1 June 2011)
GE Sees Solar Cheaper Than Fossil Power in Five Years
Brian Wingfield, Bloomberg News
Solar power may be cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear reactors within three to five years because of innovations, said Mark M. Little, the global research director for General Electric Co. (GE)
“If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which I’m hopeful that we will do, you’re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,” Little said yesterday in an interview in Bloomberg’s Washington office. The 2009 average U.S. retail rate per kilowatt-hour for electricity ranges from 6.1 cents in Wyoming to 18.1 cents in Connecticut, according to Energy Information Administration data released in April.
GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, announced in April that it had boosted the efficiency of thin-film solar panels to a record 12.8 percent. Improving efficiency, or the amount of sunlight converted to electricity, would help reduce the costs without relying on subsidies.
(26 May 2011)
Jolt of energy is bringing landfill mining to life
Damian Carrington, Guardian
Mining the rubbish buried by previous generations for valuable commodities has been a dream: now it's becoming a reality
As you'll know. mining digs out seams of valuable material from under the surface of the Earth. But what if that material was junk we had dumped into landfill sites over the last 50 years?
I'd heard of the concept before and it had a sci-fi appeal, set in a Mad Max-like future where, say, petrochemicals had become scarce and expensive. There's been mention of mining for gold from circuit boards and plastics before, always a decade away. But perhaps it's coming much sooner than that via a change of focus onto a commodity even more fundamental: energy.
The location will be a 50-year-old waste dump containing 17m tonnes of refuse in Houthalen-Hechteren, Belgium. British company Advanced Plasma Power signed a deal potentially worth €500m on Thursday with the site's operators Group Machiels to build a plant to mine the rubbish and convert it into a gas that can be burned for heat or electricity.
(27 May 2011)