Shell Way Ahead of the Crowd

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- From Exxon Mobil's  (XOM) venture into the semi-autonomous region of Iraq to Chevron's  (CVX) ambitious Gorgon liquified natural gas project in Australia, the leading global oil and gas companies are known for taking big risks by betting on projects that are far too challenging for mid-cap energy companies.

One such company -- European oil giant Royal Dutch Shell  (RDS.A) -- is leading the industry in the development of floating liquefied natural gas, or FLNG, technology.

Earlier this month, Shell moved one step closer to its FLNG ambitions when it moved the enormous 1,600-foot hull of its FLNG vessel, called Prelude, out of the dry dock. Through this facility, which came with a price tag of around $11.7 billion, Shell will be able to tap into offshore projects that are otherwise too costly to develop.

Shell plans to use this massive vessel to tap into the growing demand for LNG from Asia. Shell's FLNG vessel is nearing completion while its competitors are still in the early stages of development. In terms of FLNG, Shell is way ahead of the crowd.

Natural gas, unlike coal, is the cleaner alternative for power generation. To ship this gas, companies must chill the gas to hundreds of degrees below zero. This process turns the gas into liquid (called LNG) as its volume shrinks by 600 times, which makes it easier to ship the fuel to far-off places. Traditionally, this is done on land through conventional LNG plants.

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