Inpex’s LNG mega-project is so important it was in the spotlight at a London event, when manager Louis Bon spoke at MCE Deepwater Development about the vital aspect of collaboration when delivering on a development like this one.

Bon has always been a strong proponent of collaboration, mostly when he’s in charge of one of Total’s projects (he’s on secondment from the company to bring Ichthys to fruition).

Development of this field in the Browse Basin is only possible with the joint collaborative efforts of all the participants involved, and having an integrated team in place to overcome the HSE and logistical challenges of a project like this.

The development is using yards simultaneously constructing the FPSO, CPF and subsea production system in countries including South Korea, Thailand, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

“We have a meeting in Perth every year of all the companies involved, to foster that team approach,” Bon said. To give an insight into the scale of Ichthys, more than 30,000 people worldwide have or are working on it.

Logistically, the project will have up to 2000 people offshore during peak construction activities, with around 500 offshore at present. Bon describes it as “a massive logistical operation”, using seven helicopters from the land base at Broome, for example.

The field itself, which contains more than 12 Tcf of gas and 500 MMbbl of condensate, is around 65 per cent complete. Latest activity includes the insertion of the 7000-tonne turret into the FPSO, and the seabed riser support structure recently being installed in place on site in 250m of water. Deepwater pipelay activity got underway during the summer and is expected to be complete by the end of this year, Bon added. Two rigs are drilling the development and injection wells—the Ensco 5006 and Jack Bates.

Bon also pointed out that Ichthys is “a very significant subsea installation,” with more than 30,000 tonnes of equipment to be installed on the seabed in total.

However, the weight of the CPF’s topsides was a worry for some delegates. One pointed out that, weighing in at more than 70,000 tonnes, the semisub will be approximately 70 per cent heavier than the world’s next biggest topsides facility—BP’s Thunder Horse platform (the topsides of which come in at 40,000 tonnes). That’s a big jump.

Bon was quick to fire back and justify this weight gain, outlining how Inpex and its partners have learned from previous lessons and opted for a “robust design life” for the facility. The platform has to be able to withstand cyclones while staying on-station, and last for the full 40-year planned life cycle. This was as opposed to options such as going for a 25-year period, followed by various brownfield upgrades, revamps, heavier maintenance programs, and so on, which was deemed not desirable due to the lack of clarity over the likely expense.

“We took the decision to design for a 40-year total life, and it had a huge impact on the design. Virtually everything is a first, but we will have a facility that will last. It’s a good thing, but that also made it the biggest challenge,” he said.

Bon admitted that the 70,000 tonne weight of the topsides had increased during detailed engineering by between 10 to 15 per cent but that it was a rise “in the right range that we normally see. It’s not uncommon.” Nevertheless, he added, at all times the weight was under strict control.