ExxonMobil, BHP get environmental nod for Scarborough LNG scheme

ExxonMobil Corp. and BHP Billiton’s proposed plan to develop the Scarborough natural gas field discovery on the Exmouth plateau offshore Western Australia has received conditional approval from Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Initial plans are for a floating LNG (FLNG) development, but there is no guarantee as yet that this will be the final design (OGJ Online, Apr. 2, 2013). It would be larger than the FLNG facilities being built for Shell’s Prelude field in Browse basin further north.

The FLNG vessel will be 495 m long and 75 m wide. Shell’s Prelude is 488 m by 74 m. The Scarborough vessel will be capable of processing 6-7 million tonnes/year of LNG compared with Prelude’s 3.6 million tpy.

Front-end engineering and design for the Scarborough FLNG vessel is slated to begin in 2014 with a final investment decision not due until the 2015 fiscal year.

The Scarborough JV’s environmental application described the project as processing gas from 12 wells to be drilled during two phases from 2018.

The minister’s conditions of approval relate to precautions to protect humpback and other whales that migrate through the region. The approval also stipulates corridors for any telecommunications cables to be used for communication with the FLNG vessel.

Scarborough field, discovered in 1979, contains 8-10 tcf of dry gas. Depending on the project being declared viable, FLNG would begin production in 2021.

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