The shipping industry is gradually turning to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for ships and tankers amid concerns about the impact that traditional fuels, such as diesel, could have on the environment.
A report by Deloitte published earlier in June revealed that LNG is slowly but surely becoming the preferred solution among ship owners and operators. The search for sustainable alternatives to traditional fuels has recently ramped up in response to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) new emissions standards for marine bunker fuels, which aim to cut the shipping sector’s overall carbon emissions by 50% by 2020.
Some 120 LNG-powered ships currently exist around the world, while another 130 are on order. Yet, as numerous organisations such as the International Association of Port and Harbours (IPAH) continue to encourage ports around the world to develop LNG bunkering facilities, it is clear that more has to be done to cut down CO2 outputs in the shipping industry.
While Europe boasts the majority of LNG bunkering ports, which are mainly distributed in the north of the continent, similar facilities are starting to flourish in Southeast Asia and in the US. However, in some parts of the world, these services are almost totally absent. One of the more recent countries to develop LNG facilities is Japan, which is aiming to become an international bunkering hub through ports in Tokyo Bay and the Port of Yokohama. The nation has been identified as one of the key places in Asia where natural gas-fuelled ships will be able to take on board LNG.
We take a look at some of the key LNG bunkering facilities around the world.
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The Dutch city of Rotterdam is a pioneer in the use of LNG and is now planning to turn its port into an LNG bunkering facility. In 2014, Rotterdam’s new Port Management By-Laws changed, making it the first hub where ship-to-ship LNG bunkering of sea-going vessels is officially allowed. Tank-to-ship and truck-to-ship options are also available.
The hub has recently started cooperating with a number of partners to facilitate the creation of an LNG logistics chain in Europe. The port has a dedicated LNG gate terminal with three storage tanks, each with a capacity of 180,000m3.
Also known as Polarbase, Hammerfest is the biggest LNG bunkering facility in Norway, with a storage capacity of 1,250m3 and a pump capacity of 90 tonnes per hour (tph).
The hub is equipped to handle vessels longer than 250m and allows for tank-to-ship bunkering. It became operational in 2014 but has been expanded over the past few years, and is now able to bunker 1,000m3 of LNG in one operation.
Barcelona’s port became an LNG bunkering facility in January 2017 as part of the city’s air quality improvement plan, which focuses on using LNG as marine fuel.
In February last year, Spanish natural gas and electrical energy utilities company Naturgy, previously known as Gas Natural Fenosa, completed the first LNG bunkering for a Balearia ferry at the port. The two companies signed a ten-year supply deal in January this year with plans to operate at the Barcelona hub.
The port of Montreal recently started offering LNG bunkering services and has acquired four LNG-fuelled vessels designed to comply with the latest environmental standards.
As part of the move, the port and energy provider Gaz Métro announced an LNG supply solution for marine fuel that is now available to all shipowners in Quebec, including fleets passing through the port.
Jacksonville port is the only hub on the US East Coast to offer on-dock and near-dock LNG fuelling services, thanks to a partnership with Tote Maritime Puerto Rico and Crowley Maritime, which both operate in the port.
A pair of dual-fuel container ships has used LNG bunkering facilities at the port since 2016; the US hub is planning to expand its range of customers in a bid to acquire a key role in the LNG industry.
In 2016, Harvey Gulf International Marine completed the first LNG bunkering of a vessel in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, paving the way for the hub to become a central LNG terminal in North America.
Since then, Energy World company Fourchon LNG has announced plans to build an $888m export facility at Fourchon, capable of producing five million tonnes of LNG per annum for offshore supply vessels.
In June this year, Panama became an LNG bunkering facility following the delivery of a commissioning cargo to Colon’s Costa Norte terminal near the Panama Canal.
The terminal features a 180,000m3 storage tank and is scheduled to attract a broad range of customers, including Panamanian utilities, liquefied fuel suppliers and companies in Central America aiming for small-scale purchases.
A recent expansion of the canal has further given space for 90% of the global LNG fleet to transit the Panama Canal, enabling US producers to ship the fuel to Asia more quickly.
The Dominican Republic revealed plans to develop LNG trans-shipment and bunkering services for the Caribbean, Central America and South America in 2015, under a partnership with local supplier AES Dominicana.
The terminal, situated near Santo Domingo, completed its first LNG reload in February 2017, and has reloading capabilities between 60,000m3 and 70,000m3.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore recently started an LNG bunkering pilot programme in a bid to trial operational procedures and safety protocols for the practice.
Having awarded LNG bunkering licences to Pavilion Gas and FueLNG, Singapore is preparing to offer services to a range of vessels when the fuel becomes adopted worldwide.
Truck-to-ship operations have already been carried out at the hub, which is also planning to start ship-to-ship fuelling of LNG-powered ships by 2020.
Kochi’s LNG terminal in India has been operational since 2013 and can distribute five million tonnes of fuel every year. It is currently operating at 8% of its capacity and is designed to receive LNG tankers between 65,000m3 and 216,000m3.
Operated by Petronet, the terminal carried out the first supply of LNG to small ships in February 2015 and is forecast to be able to cater for approximately 40-50 vessels per year without affecting the regular unloading and reloading of routine LNG vessels.
Japan’s port of Yokohama completed the first phase of development works to build an LNG bunkering facility at the beginning of this year, introducing a truck-to-ship bunkering service.
By 2020, the hub is planning to be able to offer ship-to-ship bunkering in order to become a central hub in Southeast Asia and Japan for LNG operations.
The port of Gibraltar has been considering offering LNG bunkering facilities for a couple of years, and the presence of its representatives at this year’s annual IQPC LNG bunkering summit in Amsterdam suggests the idea could soon become a reality.
British-Dutch multinational oil and gas giant Shell will collaborate with the port on the implementation plan as part of an agreement signed in 2016, which focuses on technical, safety and operating procedures.
Gibraltar port is scheduled to offer LNG bunkering in 2018, following the realisation of a small-scale terminal to feed a new dual-fuel power station.
The French port of Dunkirk is planning to develop infrastructure to support ship-to-ship LNG bunkering and to adapt the existing LNG jetty to enable the unloading and reloading of large liquid fuel carriers.
Jointly owned and operated by EDF, Fluxys and Total, the new terminal features three storage tanks, each capable of storing 190,000m3 of LNG and will have an annual regasification capacity of 13 billion cubic metres of gas. This amount is sufficient to meet approximately 20% of annual gas consumption in France and Belgium, making Dunkirk the largest terminal of its kind in Continental Europe.
An LNG bunkering facility is currently under construction at Hamburg port in Germany and will feature truck-to-ship and tank-to-ship services.
The hub’s plan is part of a wider set of anti-air pollution measures, with the ultimate goal to annually limit NO2 emissions and reduce the number of affected inhabitants.
Busan will become the second port in South Korea to offer LNG bunkering services, with works to build a floating terminal set to be completed in 2019.
The sixth-busiest port in the world, Busan recently signed a contract with Korea Gas Corporation and believes the project will help reduce CO2 by 30% by 2030.
The port is also considering converting some of its municipal harbour vessels to dual-fuel propulsion and to reduce port fees for LNG-powered ships.
Chinese energy company ENN Group is building an LNG import and bunkering terminal in China’s Zhoushan port near Shanghai. Upon completion of the first phase, the terminal will have two full containment LNG storage tanks, each with a capacity of 160,000m3.
The project will also see the construction of a 30km gas transmission pipeline that will help transfer LNG and a carrier terminal with two berths capable of anchoring 30,000m³ LNG vessels each.