A floating non-propelled barge in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Colombia, will convert natural gas to liquefied natural gas as part of the Exmar-Pacific Rubialis Energy project. This facility will be the first of its kind. Pacific Rubialis is the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production company in Colombia.
Onshore shale reserves, accessed through fracking, have received the most attention of late, though offshore reserves have been in production since 1947. Previous floating production systems have been either ships or semi-submersible drilling rigs held in place by anchors. In floating production systems, the wellhead is generally attached to the seafloor once the drilling is completed. These production systems can operate in water depths of up to 6,000 feet.
This new floating LNG system is called a floating liquefaction, regasification, and storage unit (FLRSU).
The FLRSU will not only compress the natural gas to reduce its volume by a factor of 600 for easier transportation, but it will also store the compressed gas for offloading to the shuttle tankers of LNG carriers.
The system is currently being constructed at the Wison Offshore & Marine fabrication yard in Nantong, China, designed by Black & Veatch, in conjunction with Exmar Offshore, with the integrated control and safety system provided by Honeywell Process Solutions. Construction began at the end of 2012, and last week, three LNG storage tanks were installed into the hull of the floating production unit.
Although the recent safety record of LNG has been good, an explosion in Cleveland in 1944 is said to have leveled neighborhoods over a one-square-mile area, which illustrates the potential risk associated with energy stored in this form.
After recent well-publicized offshore energy industry accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon, there has been increased emphasis on safety systems.
“Honeywell’s extensive experience in LNG shipping and offshore was a key factor for our partners in this project,” said David Higgins, director of marine for Honeywell Process Solutions. “We are working with Black & Veatch on topside pre-treatment and liquefaction processes and with Wison for the barge, cargo tanks, and utilities. Thus, we are bringing our process controls and marine experience together in this groundbreaking project, which will be the first to produce LNG in the offshore environment.”
The project will be the first to perform floating liquefaction and will also feature ship-to-ship liquid transfer. This, according to Exmar CEO Nicolas Saverys, will enable the team to “to bring previously untapped gas to consumers at a time when the world wants cleaner fuels.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that demand for natural gas will grow an average 2 percent annually through 2035. Roughly one-third of that will be supplied by unconventional sources, such as offshore. Floating facilities such as this one will allow companies to access these difficult to reach gas reserves.
The Honeywell integrated control and safety solution being deployed is based on the company’s Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS). Experion is an automation platform and application suite that integrates disparate data across facilities and control system environments. Its distributed system architecture incorporates elements of supervisory control, batch control, and collaboration across business networks.
Applications follow the OPC standard with open protocol integration. All elements are overseen by the Experion PKS to provide a single, comprehensive automation solution. The system, which will incorporate closed-circuit television and fire and gas detectors, will manage all control and safety operations of the topside and hull and also monitor operational safety during cargo handling processes.