Undersea pipe may take gas to Asia
A 30km undersea gas pipeline may be laid off the North Coast, allowinga specially-designed ship to drop anchor over it and extract gas pumped from Metgasco’s fields near Casino.
The ship, estimated to cost $5 billion and bigger than an aircraft carrier, would then convert the gas into LNG before transferring it to another vessel for export.
The feasibility of the radical proposal, which uses state-of-the-art technology, is under investigation as Metgasco looks for ways to sell its gas to the lucrative Asian market.
The company announced to the Australian Stock Exchange last week that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Norway-based FLEX LNG to evaluate the feasibility of a floating production ship.
Yesterday, Metgasco managing director David Johnson explained how it would work, stressing it was only at the investigation stage, to determine if the project was economically feasible.
“It’s new technology,” he said. “Basically, the platform would be, for example, 30 kilometres offshore with a gas pipeline that can be picked up by a ship, then the gas converted into LNG.”
He said unlike most other Australian coal seam gas projects, Metgasco’s gas resource was close to the coast, making a floating LNG platform a commercial possibility. He said the study would take months, with a final decision expected next year.
FLEX has recently commissioned Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea to build four ‘producer units’, or ships.
The ships are designed to pre-treat, liquefy, store and offload LNG.
Although the technology is untested, some energy companies, including Shell Australia, have ordered the ships for use off the West Australian coast; while others, including Woodside Petroleum, are considering using the technology.
Kim Hin Seok, chief executive of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, which is hoping to be the first operator of such a platform at its Papua New Guinea venture, told Bloomberg News last month that it would cut production costs in half.
According to FLEX, the LNG industry has been constrained by slow development of new supply due to delays in onshore developments resulting in escalating engineering, procurement and construction costs.