Very large floating structure

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Very large floating structures (VLFSs) or, as some literature refers to them, very large floating platforms (VLFPs) can be constructed to create floating airports, bridges, breakwaters, piers and docks, storage facilities (for oil & natural gas), wind and solar power plants, for military purposes, to create industrial space, emergency bases, entertainment facilities (such as casinos), recreation parks, mobile offshore structures and even for habitation. Currently, different concepts have been proposed for building floating cities or huge living complexes.[1]


Unlike the top surface of vessels, that of a VLFS is used as the ground, and therefore the floating structure should[clarification needed] provide a very large surface area. It can be constructed by joining the necessary number of floating units together. The design of the floating structure must comport with safety and strength requirements, operating conditions, etc. Steel, concrete (prestressed or reinforced hybrid) or steel-concrete composite materials may be used to build the floating structure. The motions of the floating structure must be less than those allowed to ensure the safety of people and facilities on a VLFS. Generally, floating structures shall[clarification needed] be moored at the same site for a long time.[according to whom?]


VLFSs may be classified under two broad categories, namely the pontoon type and the semi-submersible type. The former type is a simple box structure and features high stability, low manufacturing cost and easy maintenance and repair. In open sea, where the wave heights are relatively large, it is necessary to use the semi-submersible VLFS type to minimize the effects of waves while maintaining a constant buoyant force. VLFSs of the semi-submersible type are used for oil and gas exploration in sea and other purposes. They are fixed in place by column tubes, piles, or other bracing systems.

In contrast, the pontoon-type VLFS just floats (lies) on the sea surface. The pontoon-type VLFS is very flexible compared to other kinds of offshore structures, so that the elastic deformations are more important than their rigid body motions. Thus, hydroelastic analysis takes center stage in the analysis of the pontoon-type VLFSs. Together with the motion of the floating structure, the response of the structure to water waves and the impact on the entire fluid domain have to be studied.

VLFS types[edit]

Pontoon-type VLFSs are also known in the literature as mat-like VLFSs because of their small draft in relation to the length dimensions. Very large pontoon-type floating structure is often called Mega-Floats. As a rule, the Mega-Float is a floating structure having at least one length dimension greater than 60 meters. Horizontally large floating structures can be from 500 to 5000 meters in length and 100 to 1000 meters in width, while their thickness can be of the order of about 2-10 meters.

Aircushion supported Mega-Floaters are mega floaters that are supported by an air cushion. They were invented by Jan Van Kessel of TU Delft.[2]


Many large floating structures have been conceptualized, including a golf course,[3] a farm,[4] and habitable long-term living complexes. Many of these concepts are never built.

Some large floating structures that have been built include floating airports and floating landing platforms for returning rockets.

Floating airport[edit]

As of 2002, the largest offshore structure built was the Mega-Float, a floating airport prototype[clarification needed] constructed in Tokyo Bay from 1998 to 1999.[5]

Floating landing platforms[edit]

As of October 2014, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has contracted with a Louisiana shipyard to build a floating landing platform for reusable orbital launch vehicles. The initial platform will have an approximately 90 by 50 meters (300 ft × 160 ft) landing pad surface and will be capable of precision positioning with diesel-powered Azimuth thrusters[6] so the platform can hold its position for launch vehicle landing. This platform is currently planned for first use in January 2015[7] when SpaceX plans to attempt a controlled descent flight test to land the first stage of Falcon 9 Flight 14 on a solid surface after it is used to loft a contracted payload toward Earth orbit.[8][9] The platform will utilize GPS position information to navigate and hold its precise position.[10] The rocket landing leg span is 18 m (60 ft) and must not only land within the 52 m (170 ft)-wide barge deck, but must also deal with ocean swells and GPS errors. SpaceX has projected that the likelihood of successfully landing on the platform on the first try is 50 percent or less.[11]

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed a photograph of the "autonomous spaceport drone ship" in November 2014. The ship is designed to hold position to within 3 meters (9.8 ft), even under storm conditions.[12]

Floating LNG production facility[edit]

The Shell floating LNG plant is under construction to process and liquify offshore natural gas into liquified natural gas for transport and storage.[13] The Shell project is scheduled to begin processing gas in 2016.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DeltaSync floating city". Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Jan Van Kessel's mega-floater design". Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Kiniry, Laura. "9 of the World's Weirdest Floating Structures: floating golf course". Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  4. ^ Kiniry, Laura. "9 of the World's Weirdest Floating Structures: floating farm". Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  5. ^ Very large floating structure — Mega-Float, completed 1999. New Atlantis 2002, retrieved October 1, 2011
  6. ^ "SpaceX Announces Spaceport Barge Positioned by Thrustmaster’s Thrusters". Thrustmaster. 2014-11-22. Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  7. ^ Bergin, Chris (2014-12-17). "SpaceX confirms CRS-5 launch slip to January 6". Retrieved 2014-12-18. 
  8. ^ Foust, Jeff (2014-10-25). "Next Falcon 9 Launch Could See First-stage Platform Landing". Space News. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  9. ^ Bullis, Kevin (2014-10-26). "SpaceX Plans to Start Reusing Rockets Next Year". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  10. ^ Dean, James (2014-10-24). "SpaceX to attempt Falcon 9 booster landing on floating platform". Retrieved 2014-10-27. 
  11. ^ Bergin, Chris (2014-11-18). "Pad 39A – SpaceX laying the groundwork for Falcon Heavy debut". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved 2014-11-17. 
  12. ^ Musk, Elon (2014-11-22). "Autonomous spaceport drone ship". SpaceX. Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  13. ^ "Shell floating LNG technology chosen by joint venture for Greater Sunrise project - Shell Worldwide". Retrieved 2011-06-10. 
  14. ^ Kelly, Ross (19 June 2014). "GDF Suez, Santos Halt Innovative LNG Plan in Australia : Companies Say Offshore Conversion Project Not Commercially Viable". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 December 2014. The decision highlights the risks confronting Australian gas-export projects as they grapple with high costs and competition from North America and Russia, which are vying to provide Asian utilities with cleaner-burning fuels. Confidence in "floating" liquefied natural gas may also be diminishing—two years before a Royal Dutch Shell PLC-owned vessel is due to begin processing gas for the first time. 

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