Modular revolution in LNG

Technology is a moving target..

August 01, 2011 11:37 ET

Modular Preassembly Revolutionizing LNG Construction, Zeus Conference to Examine Implications

HOUSTON, TX–(Marketwire – Aug 1, 2011) – In seven years, developers have shifted from custom onsite construction to preassembling much of a liquefaction plant or receiving terminal in fabrication facilities and transporting huge modules onsite. A survey of liquefaction trains currently under construction found 13 of 19 using this practice, called “modularization.”

“Modularization is a quiet revolution in world-scale LNG,” said Bob Nimocks, president of Zeus Development Corp, an LNG analyst. “The trend has exploded in use. The first modular LNG export project, North West Shelf Train 5, which was completed in 2008, used 75 modules, the largest of which weighed 1,835 tonnes. Pluto Train 1, which is being completed nearby, is using three times that many, the heaviest weighing more than 2,000 tonnes.”

Several innovations are allowing contractors to transition to this approach, where most of the plant is constructed by highly skilled manufacturing labor instead of newly trained labor onsite. Specialized heavy-lift vessels and hydraulic multi-axle trailers are among the innovations. Heavy-lift ships like the ones operated by Netherlands-based Dockwise have been designed to transport modules as heavy as 15,000 tonnes from construction ports to distant shores. Once the domain of offshore platform construction, these ships increasingly are used in LNG, Chevron’s Gorgon project on Barrow Island offshore Northwest Australia, for example, recently contracted Dockwise’s Mighty Servant III to carry modules up to 7,000 tonnes.

Also, manufacturers, like Fagioli Group, are designing new self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs) to transport modules up to 5,000 tonnes from dock to construction site for final implementation. A 5,400-tonne module was transported recently overland in the Arctic Circle to an upstream gas-compression facility on Alaska’s North Slope, allowing the contractor to set a new schedule record.

Aside from faster completions, modularization is enabling the LNG industry to consider new markets, such as monetizing smaller fields with downscaled plants that can be transported onsite as entire units, fueling transportation, and of course building floating liquefaction ships like the ones being built by Samsung and Technip for Shell.

On Sept. 14-15, Zeus Development Corp will host the 2011 Modular & Mid-Scale LNG Conference ( in Lafayette, La. to examine these trends, including a tour of Chart Industry’s modular fabrication facility in New Iberia. A management summary, titled “Modular LNG Construction Wins,” can be downloaded at