Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) has been getting a lot of attention lately, in large part because the substance releases 40% to 50% less carbon dioxide than coal and a quarter less CO2 than petroleum. ExxonMobil has long been a fan of the stuff, with a $30 billion LNG field project currently in the works in Qatar. Now Shell is getting in on the act with a plan to build the world’s first floating LNG facility–a 600,000-metric-ton megaship heavy enough to withstand cyclones.
The ship, which will initially be deployed off the northwest coast of Western Australia, can suck up gas from previously “stranded” offshore fields that were too remote for traditional LNG facilities to access. In the past, offshore gas had to be piped onto land and liquefied in shoreside plants. But with the megaships, offshore LNG can be processed on site.
Shell’s proposed LNG ships, estimated to cost $5 billion each, are a smart investment–Australia has $890 billion in “stranded” offshore reserves, and LNG demand is expected to double worldwide by 2020. And while LNG isn’t likely to be used in natural gas-powered vehicles (compressed natural gas is the fuel of choice), it could emerge as a cheap, low-carbon fuel for power plants.
Shell hasn’t revealed when the megaships will be constructed and deployed, but the company hopes to build up to 10 in the near future.