Royal Dutch Shell PLC has completed building the 488-meter hull of the world’s largest vessel – a floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility which is being constructed to process natural gas off the coast of Australia.

Shell Prelude Boat

The 488-meter hull of the structure was floated out of the dry dock in Geoje, South Korea last month. Credit: Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

Despite its impressive proportions, the facility is one-quarter the size of an equivalent plant on land. Engineers have designed components that will stack vertically to save space.

Shell Prelude Comparison

The Shell FLNG facility, once complete, will be larger than many iconic structures throughout the world, including the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. Credit: Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

The first site to use Shell’s FLNG will be the Prelude gas field, around 125 miles off Australia’s northwest coast. Due to begin producing by 2017, the facility is planned to be in operation for 25 years.

The Prelude facility will serve as a model for projects to open up new natural gas fields at sea that are currently considered too costly or difficult to develop. If it is an economic success, gas fields worldwide that are too far out to sea and too small to develop any other way could become viable for LNG production.

The Prelude FLNG facility is planned to produce at least enough LNG to easily satisfy the annual natural gas needs of a city the size of Hong Kong.

The Prelude will also tap into the cold water of the deep ocean to help cool the natural gas being processed. Eight one-meter diameter pipes will extend from the facility to about 150 meters below the ocean’s surface. It will deliver around 50,000 cubic meters of cold seawater each hour to help to cool the gas from below the facility, saving deck space.

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