Prelude FLNG Remains Shut In Until Shell Makes It Safe For Work
Supermajor Shell has been told to keep its massive Prelude FLNG facility shut until it can convince Australian oil and gas safety regulator NOPSEMA that it can keep the facility properly powered and that the safety systems were operational.
The order is a reaction to a shutdown of production from the Prelude FLNG facility earlier this month it lost power, and the crew making several failed attempts to re-establish power aboard.
Namely, the Shell-owned and operated Prelude FLNG facility experienced an unplanned event that resulted in a complete loss of power at the facility on December 2, 2021, which subsequently led to unreliable and intermittent power availability over 3 days. NOPSEMA started an investigation the following morning.
By December 6, 2021, the failure to restore reliable power was seen as an ongoing risk to the health and safety of the personnel on the facility and the regulator arranged a visit to the facility. Inspectors were mobilized on December 8, 2021, returning two days later.
The inspectors determined that the operator did not have a sufficient understanding of the risks of the power system on the facility, including failure of mechanisms, interdependencies, and recovery.
According to NOPSEMA, the power failures directly impacted emergency response capability, operation of safety-critical equipment – like communications, access to documentation, and information. The lack of power also impacted Shell’s ability to evacuate personnel by helicopter or boat if needed.
Habitability of the facility for the personnel on board was also in question as essential services such as lighting, safety systems, communication systems, potable water systems, sewage treatment, and HVAC were affected while seven people were treated for heat-related conditions.
NOPSEMA claimed that it was aware that Shell’s investigation into the power outage is planned to determine the causes of the issues that led to this incident.
However, the proposed scope of the investigation does not provide for a thorough review of the evidence and root cause analysis of the entire series of events experienced during the incident as well as a review of the risks for future similar incidents and actions to mitigate them.
Due to that fact, the offshore regulator ordered Shell to carry out reviews of the incidents and associated consequences that occurred at the Prelude FLNG facility from December 2-6, including the issues identified in the NOPSEMA investigation report dated December 23.
Shell is also mandated to develop a detailed plan, schedule, and commitment to timely implementation of all necessary corrective actions.
Before any hydrocarbon production starts, the supermajor must demonstrate to NOPSEMA’s satisfaction that the facility can safely recover essential power and associated essential services following a loss of power and that the safety systems and essential support systems can operate to maintain the safety of personnel.
Also, on the first business day of each month, starting from March 2022, Shell must provide an update to NOPSEMA detailing progress regarding its orders. All progress and plans must be presented to NOPSEMA once complete.
It is worth noting that the first LNG shipment from the project – originally sanctioned in 2011 – was shipped in June 2019, to customers in Asia. Shell is the operator of the project, with other partners being Inpex, CPC, and KOGAS.
The world's largest FLNG facility has had its fair share of rough patches as it resumed LNG shipments in January this year after almost a one-year shutdown caused by an electrical trip.
The FLNG vessel is 1,600 feet long and forms part of an offshore development that produces natural gas from the namesake field some 300 miles north-northeast of Broome in Western Australia.
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