INPEX will soon pass the 50 per cent completion mark of its massive US$34 billion Ichthys project off the WA coast, project managing director Louis Bon told delegates at the APPEA conference.

A series of milestones were met at the project in recent months as the project operator travels towards first liquefied natural gas shipments in 2017, with a number of new contracts also announced in April.

The project comprises massive onshore processing facilities near Darwin in the Northern Territory and an 889 kilometre gas export pipeline to unite it with the Ichthys field.

When operational, the project is expected to produce 8.4 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas and 1.6 million tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas per year, along with about 100,000 barrels of condensate per day at peak.

To give delegates an idea of just how big this project is, Mr Bon said that 30,000 tonnes of equipment and 400 kilometres of flexible and rigid lines would be installed on the seabed to gather and distribute the process fluids to the wells and the production liquids from them.

With first production earmarked for the end of 2016, Mr Bon said it was “full steam ahead”, with the company currently moving into the peak construction phase, with more than 1,500 people mobilised on sites worldwide.

“There will be so much activity for the offshore project in 2014,”Mr Bon said, saying engineering, procurement, construction and fabrication efforts had been ongoing in Australia and other parts of the world.

The first placement of a hull block for the Central Processing Facility took place at Samsung Heavy Industries’ shipyard in Geoje,Korea, in early April, he said.

This came after the first block of the keel for the project’s 336 metre floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facility was placed at the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering shipyard in Okpo, South Korea, in February.

The FPSO will be moored on a non-disconnectable turret, currently being manufactured by SBM in Singapore, which will be shipped to Korea to join the rest of the FPSO facility in June, Mr Bon said.

Mr Bon added that structure fabrication and rigid pipeline assembly for the facility was well advanced at yards run by McDermott International and Heerema Marine Contractors in Batam, Indonesia.

Perth-based Matrix Composites & Engineering will supply McDermott International with nearly 1,000 tonnes of production buoyancy for two of McDermott’s mid depth buoys (MDBs) which it said are some of the largest syntactic structures (submerged) ever produced for production applications.

McDermott has also granted a new contract to Neptune Marine Services for survey and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) work on the project.

Expected to commence early May, the initial phase will include pre-lay survey of the field, installation of eight long base line acoustic positioning arrays and the provision of one of Neptune’s Swift XL Work Class ROVs.

“But the subsea superstar is undoubtedly the 110 metre high, 7000 tonne Riser Support Structure, which will be ready for installation in September,” Mr Bon said.

Heerema’s deepwater construction vessel Aegir will arrive on site at the Ichthys field at the same time, along with Saipem’s Castorone barge – set to install the subsea infrastructure and lay the 42-inch pipeline.

About 25,000 tonnes of mooring chains will be completed at Spain’s Vicinay plant at the same time, Mr Bon said.

Saipem awarded UK-based First Subsea a contract to supply a 42 inch pipeline recovery tool (PRT) for the gas export pipeline on the Ichthys LNG Project.

It also approached UTEC Survey for the provision of survey and positioning services for the project, which will see pre-lay survey works carried out from the Go explorer, which will also provide touch-down monitoring support to the pipelay barges.

The development drilling rig for the Ichthys project, the Ensco 5006, arrived in Singapore on 28 April for major upgrades, including modifications to the deck and increased capacity in the lifting equipment.

Following the upgrades, which are expected to take up to 175 days, the rig will be towed to the Ichthys field to start drilling the first production wells on the project, in October.

Mr Bon said there would also be a focus on the progression of CPF and FPSO fabrication milestones this year, with the first topsides to be lifted onto the two hulls by the fourth quarter, paving the way for module integration, and then atshore commissioning.

Onshore works at Darwin’s Blaydin Point site were continuing on schedule, with major work underway on key infrastructure, including the product loading jetties, module offloading facility, storage tanks and the facility’s Combined Cycle PowerPlant.

London-listed Kentz Corporation was awarded an A$615 million contract in April for further work at Blaydin point by JKC Australia, the joint venture between JCG Corporation, KBR and Chiyoda Corporation.

The contract covered electrical and instrumentation packages for the onshore facilities, covering two process trains and utilities and additional pre-commissioning and commissioning expertise, Kentz said.

The first of more than 200 modules needed to build the onshore facilities is set to arrive by mid-year, Mr Bon said, including the two APCI-process LNG trains, each with a nameplate capacity to produce 4.2 million tonnes of LNG and 0.8Mt of LPG each year.

Following the successful completion of the first phase of the dredging program in 2013, the second and final phase is scheduled for completion by the end of July, Mr Bon said.

The Ichthys project joint venture comprises of INPEX and major partner Total, as well as the Australian subsidiaries of Tokyo Gas,Osaka Gas, Chubu Electric Power and Toho Gas.