Modularization: The Key to Future LNG Developments

Modularization and disruptive technologies will be key in reducing the costs of developing LNG projects offshore Western Australia, according to Feisal Ahmed – head of technology at Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia's largest independent oil and gas company.

Ahmed – delivering a presentation Tuesday about Woodside's seven-year, $15 billion Pluto LNG Development at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston – said that increasing labor costs and a drop in the availability or the resources needed to build projects were "key issues" along with productivity. Such issues can be solved by modularization as well as disruptive technologies.

Ahmed explained that the Pluto project – to develop a field of 5 trillion cubic feet of gas some 120 miles (190 kilometers) offshore Karratha, Western Australia – taught Woodside important lessons about the need for more self-contained construction and modularization in LNG projects, and about advantages of subsea processing.

"I think that's the next journey: how much further can you get beyond 200 kilometers? Can you beat 300, 400 kilometers and basically eliminate platforms and/or floating structures?" Ahmed said.

"We have roughly half a dozen technology streams that we are pursuing. They are all disruptive in nature. I think one of the critical things that all of us have seen over the years is subsea processing and subsea compression, and that eliminates platforms and FPSOs … So we're looking at as much as we can to actually reduce the overall capex exposure."

Ahmed also confirmed that Woodside is reconsidering how to develop its Browse asset. The company said in mid-April that it had deemed its original plan for Browse unfeasible in terms of cost.

"We are now going to go through a recycling of that [plan] and will hopefully get to an FID [final investment decision] as quickly as we can," Ahmed said.

At the end of April, Woodside Chief Executive Peter Coleman said that the firm was looking at floating LNG as a potential quick development solution for the $40 million Browse field.

A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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