Ultramegasuper Ship Will Tap Australian Natural Gas

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FLNG Rear Very High 3K_LAvailableForPrint.jpg

Shell's newest fossil-fuel-extracting vehicle will dwarf every American naval ship, if that tells you anything about what's important in today's world.

The Prelude FLNG will be a third of a mile long and weigh 600,000 tons. That's six times heavier than our largest class of aircraft carrier. The ship will be used to extract, cool, and transload natural gas, so that it can be transported to major markets in tankers. In the simplest terms, it's a floating drilling rig and refrigerator moored to the seafloor by four groups of tethers. What's really impressive is how small it is; a similar facility on land would be several times as large, Shell says.


The Prelude has been on the drawing board for a couple of years, but Shell made its final decision to go ahead with the ship this week. It will tap the Prelude gas field, which is located about 125 northwest of the Australian coast.
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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