Building the World's Largest Floating Object, Shown in GIFs

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

A few months ago, The New York Times sent a photographer to South Korea to photograph the world's largest floating object. It took him hundreds of shots to capture the behemoth. Now, its makers are giving us a closer look at building of the ship.

The object in question was Prelude, a skyscraper-sized natural gas refinery that Shell is building in South Korea by Samsung's Heavy Industries. The ship — if you could call it that — will anchor itself to the sea floor and not only extract natural gas, but process, refine, and liquify it at sea.

It's all in service of the increasingly difficult task of finding enough gas to satiate global demand; demand that is pushing gas companies further into the ocean and deeper below the sea floor. Increasingly, companies are building floating liquefied natural-gas vessels, or FLNGs, to streamline the process of drilling, extracting, and processing this gas.

The size of the investment — about £8bn — and the unprecedented engineering needed to suck even more gas out of the Earth is chilling and fascinating at the same time. DSP TV just released a new making-of video about Prelude which we've annotated below, but you can check out the full video above.

Forging the Mooring Chain

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

A factory in Bilbao made the massive steel chains that will keep Prelude anchored to the sea floor—more than 10 miles, or 24,500 links, are being made here.

Installing the Pipe Network

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

In Samsung's shipyard in South Korea, workers are installing 280 miles of pipes on the Prelude's decks—all designed to move extracted gas through the onboard processing plant.

Testing the Robotic Arms That Move the Gas

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

In Sens, France, the robotic arms responsible for chilling the gas to -162 Celsius — a cryogenic liquid, according to Shel l— and putting it into storage are tested.

Installing a Tower That Pumps Gas Up to the Deck

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

A 50-tonne pump tower was carefully lowered onto to the ship's storage tank at Samsung's shipbuilding yards in Geoje, Korea.

Building a 30-Storey Weathervane Turret

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

In Dubai, a massive turret that will be used aboard Prelude was loaded onto a ship bound for Geoje.

Testing the Biggest Mooring Cable Ever

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

Since keeping the ship anchored to the sea bed is essential, the cables that will help it to do so are the largest ever made. Here's footage of one snapping under more than 2,500 tonnes of weight.

Delivering a Skyscraper-Sized Gas Processor

Building the World's Largest Floating Object, In GIFs

Back in Geoje, two cranes lift and transport a gas processing module — one of several aboard Prelaude' floating refinery — for installation aboard the ship, where it will stay for decades.