Hoe Wai Cheong, President - Oil & Gas, Black & Veatch discusses the future of the LNG sector
US-based Black & Veatch (B&V) was involved in many of the world’s first LNG facilities in Algeria and the United States in the early 1960s. It has developed more than 30 operating LNG production facilities globally, two of which are offshore and most of which use its Prico single-mixed refrigerant process. The facilities handle a broad range of gas streams from pipelines, produced gas, coal gasification, coal seam production and coke oven gas. Its plants have produced more than 176M tonnes of LNG.
Hoe Wai Cheong joined B&V in 2007, serving in a variety of roles including leading Black & Veatch’s engineering, procurement and construction business for energy globally. That includes bolstering the company’s capabilities in LNG import terminal development. Among the most significant of these, historically, is the Costa Azul LNG terminal in Mexico.
Black & Veatch is also supporting the development of India’s LNG import infrastructure with the regasification terminal at Ennore for Indian Oil Corporation and a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) terminal for Swan LNG at Jafrabad. The Ennore terminal, with a send-out capacity of 5 mta, entered operation earlier this year.
Some of the company’s most complex projects have been first-of-a-kind work in the FLNG sector.
“We have secured a second FLNG conversion project for Golar”, says Mr Cheong. “The first was the Hilli Episeyo in Cameroon in 2014. The success of that project lead to the award of the Gimi conversion in 2018.”
B&V’s scope of work is broadly the same across both projects: detailed engineering and process design, specify and procure topside equipment, and provide commissioning support for the topsides and liquefaction process.
“Prico, which is used on both vessels, has been central to us winning the work,” says Mr Cheong. “The system is proven; its minimal equipment requirements and compact process footprint make it ideal for offshore liquefaction projects.”
Confidence in the technology’s suitability for offshore applications was rewarded in 2016 when Prico became the world’s first liquefaction technology to achieve production on a floating facility. In 2018 the technology successfully completed its Guaranteed Performance Test aboard Hilli Episeyo.
Hilli Episeyo was the world’s first FLNG vessel developed as a conversion project from an LNG carrier. The moored vessel operates off the coast of Cameroon. “First-of-a-kind projects have unique challenges,” says Mr Cheong. “The lessons we learnt from the Hilli increased efficiencies on the subsequent project.”
The company was also involved in another unique project, Tango FLNG in Argentina.
“Exmar’s Tango FLNG is the world’s first barge-based floating liquefaction unit, designed by B&V to produce 0.5 mta of LNG,” he says. Earlier this year the barge’s Prico plant completed its Guaranteed Performance Test and commenced commercial operations to load Argentina’s first cargo for exporting LNG.
“Unlike the conversion projects, Tango was a purpose-built barge vessel designed for jetty mooring, rather than open water,” explains Mr Cheong. “The barge has a smaller footprint and was possible only with use of our space-efficient Prico technology. The size constraints provided their own challenges but proved to be a very successful configuration in that scale.”
Mr Cheong says that Prico technology’s minimal equipment requirements and compact footprint make it ideal for offshore liquefaction projects. “The single-mixed refrigerant process’ entire liquefaction train (0.5 -2.0 mta) can be built in a single module, with gas coming in and LNG going out. This minimises module interconnection, which is undesirable on FLNG. Prico offers the lowest capital cost of all competing technologies and a simplified control system. Our patented process allows for rapid start-up and shutdown and is proven in reliable operations, with reduced personnel requirements. Prico configurations have been fully vetted for offshore application on FLNG with marinisation.”