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LNG tanker poised to load first cargo at Prelude FLNG, Australia

Singapore — The 97,730 dwt LNG tanker Valencia Knutsen has been circling near Shell's Prelude FLNG vessel to load the first LNG cargo from the facility in Western Australia, according to Platts trade flow software cFlow.

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The Spanish-flagged Valencia Knutsen departed the port of Darwin on June 2 and has been in the vicinity of Prelude FLNG since June 3, Platts cFlow showed.

The loading of the first LNG cargo will mark the startup of exports from one of the world's most anticipated LNG projects, also the world's largest floating LNG platform, adding to Australia's LNG export capacity.

Prelude has a production capacity of 3.6 million mt/year of LNG, 1.3 million mt/year of condensate and 0.4 million mt/year of LPG.

Shell did not immediately confirm the loading of the first cargo at Prelude.

Earlier this week, Shell's head of integrated gas, Maarten Wetselaar, said the first LNG cargo to be loaded from Prelude was imminent as the plant had been producing LNG for a week.

Shipping industry sources said the loading of the Valencia Knutsen would be conducted with extreme caution, due to high safety requirements and previous marine incidents. Any hiccups could result in delays.

In May 2018, the LNG carrier Gallina faced at least two technical issues when berthing next to Prelude, according to incident reports from Australia's National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority seen by S&P Global Platts.

"During berthing trials with a LNG Carrier (Gallina) a towing line connected to an infield support vessel parted," An incident report from May 10, 2018, said. "This resulted in the berthing operation being aborted and the Gallina moved outside the facility safety zone. At the time of the incident, the tanker was on the final approach approx. 50 meters off the facility."

A second incident occurred on May 19, 2018, in which one mooring line "was found to have parted (failed) and some abrasion damage was observed on other mooring lines attaching the Gallina to FLNG." This resulted in all 16 mooring lines becoming damaged due to chafing and the use of the wrong nylon material, the incident report said.

The Prelude facility is located 475 km north-northeast of Broome in Western Australia, and operated by Shell with a 67.5% stake. Other partners are Japanese explorer Inpex with 17.5%, South Korea's Kogas with 10% and Taiwan's CPC Corp. with 5%.

-- Eric Yep,

-- Edited by James Burgess,