July 2nd, 2013 by Don Lieber
A massive new liquified natural gas (LNG) construction project in Australia — one of the first “coal-conversion” projects of its kind — took a major step towards completion last week when, on June 25, a dome-shaped steel roof, weighing more than 850 tons (more than four 747 airliners) was lifted to into place by electric fans using about the “same pressure it takes to blow bubbles through a straw in a glass of water.”
“We used air to raise this huge roof, around 40 metres inside the outer concrete walls of the LNG tank,” said Rod Duke, a Vice President of the Gladstone Liquified Natural Gas project (GLNG).
The roof will now be encased by two cement layers weighing over 7,000 tons. A nickel-steel tank will then be constructed underneath which the liquified gas will be stored at -160° centigrade.
This will serve as the processing facility for the massive new “Santos GLNG Project,” which will convert coal-seam natural gas (CSG, aka “coal bed methane”) to liquified natural gas (LNG).
Converting CSG to LNG is an expanding technology; the world’s major natural gas companies are rapidly developing LNG projects as previously inaccessible reserves of coal-seam natural gas are now becoming available due, in part, to increased use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) mining capabilities.
The international expansion of this liquefied natural gas technology has been reported previously by CleanTechnica.
The GLNG project will first mine coal-seam gas inland, from the fossil-fuel rich Surat and Bowen basins in rural Queensland. The gas will be then be transported via a 420-kilometer underground pipeline to the processing facility at Curtis Island on the Eastern coast of Australia near the city of Gladstone. Annual flow capacity is expected to reach 3 to 4 million tonnes.
Last week’s roof-lifting represents a major step forward towards the completion of the Curtis Island processing facility. At the same time, over 3,000 wells have already been drilled inland in support of the project. Concurrently, the pipeline linking the wells to the processing plant is also under construction, scheduled for completion by the end 2014, with the first deliveries of gas expected in early 2015, according to a senior Santos executive.
A video of the roof’s lifting was posted on YouTube by the facility’s main construction contractor, San Fransisco-based Bechtel:
GLNG processed gas is intended to be used for export, particularly “to Asian markets.”
The project has led to protests throughout Australia. Industry sources have reported an “immense flood of anger,” with protesters mounting physical blockades against various construction sites. Critics site, among other dangers, the greenhouse gas implications of developing new, massive fossil fuel-based infrastructure (coal and methane are among the most potent greenhouse gas fossil fuels) — in blatant disregard for the record-setting heat waves across Australia this year, which have been cited by climate scientists as “the face of global climate change to come.”
Local communities have also protested against the extreme health risks they face from the highly toxic chemicals used in the process — known carcinogens and other poisonous chemicals such as benzene, toluene, chromium, and more. Australian protests against LNG development have been reported by Planetsave previously.
A leading Australian energy industry executive, Comet Ridge CEO Tor McCaul, discounted the concerns of environmentalists, citing the convenience such projects provide to… cell phone users.
“Gas is a clean form of energy… it is nice to know that one will have enough power to charge your iPhones when you reach home at the end of the day,” McCaul told the industry newsletter Rigzone.
(Author’s note: the above quotation is real; this is not satire. Read it here.)
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