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  • 2020 November 30 11:49

    LNG bunker fleet could increase fivefold by 2030

    As many as 100 LNG bunker vessels will need to be in operation by 2030 to meet shipping’s increased demands for LNG as a marine fuel, agreed experts at Riviera’s LNG Ship/Shore Interface, Europe virtual conference on 19 November.

    This would be five times the size of the current operational LNG bunker fleet, requiring hundreds of millions of dollars of additional investment, Riviera Maritime Media said in its release.

    At the panel session LNG bunkering: fuelled by future needs, panellists OLT Offshore LNG Toscana managing director Giovanni Georgi and TGE Marine Gas Engineering head of business development and sales Björn Munko detailed the current market for LNG bunkering and small-scale LNG, covering its technical and operational challenges and opportunities.

    Following the completion of a feasibility study and approval by Italy’s Minister of Economic Development, plans are now underway to modify FSRU Toscana to handle small-scale LNG carriers, Mr Giorgi told delegates.

    Located 22 km off of the Italian coast between Pisa and Livorno, FSRU Toscana is connected via pipeline to the Italian national gas grid, meeting about 5% of the country’s natural gas demand. About 40% of the LNG imports to the terminal are supplied by US LNG, said Mr Giorgi.

    To expand its business to accommodate small-scale LNG carriers, the FSRU will have to undergo several modifications, he said. Among these are installing new mooring equipment portside of the terminal (including new panama chocks and quick release hooks) to receive alongside SSLNG vessels sized between 90 m and 120 m.

    Full mission ship manoeuvring simulations were conducted by Marin in the Netherlands, said Mr Giorgi. Detailed hydrodynamic studies were carried out to design the mooring equipment, to understand the dynamic movements and to set up operational limits.

    Manoeuvring studies were also conducted, using a model of a small-scale LNG carrier of about 120 m, to identify the mooring limits and examine any critical phases during mooring and unmooring manoeuvres.

    The existing port manifold line will also be modified to connect three 6-inch cryogenic hoses with an emergency release system in a configuration L-V-L. The ship/shore link system will be upgraded, and a custody transfer metering system will be installed.

    All of the modifications will be performed in accordance with RINA class rules and the latest recommendations from SIGTTO /OCIMF. Based on the original modification timeline, FSRU Toscana should be able to accommodate small-scale LNG carriers by Q4 2021.

    Such a move by OLT Offshore LNG Toscana underpins the shift to LNG as a fuel after the implementation of the IMO 2020 0.50% sulphur cap and the announcement of European Green Deal, with more LNG-fuelled vessels and road vehicles supported by fuelling infrastructure.

    French container ship giant CMA-CGM, for example, has seven LNG-powered container ships in operation and will have 26 in its fleet by 2022 – including its recently delivered 23,000-TEU flagship CMA CGM Jacques Saade.

    Mr Munko said TGE Marine Gas Engineering was “one of the first movers in the LNG bunker vessel market,” recording the industry’s first three newbuilds. “Our role in the projects is serving as an EPCS contractor – providing engineering, procurement and construction supervision.” TGE supplied cargo tanks and cargo handling systems for four LNGBVs in operation and another two under construction.

    Among these are 6,500-m3 Cardissa and 5,800-m3 Coralius, both of which incorporate cargo handling, cargo tanks and LNG fuel supply systems from TGE Marine Gas Engineering. Others include the 4,000-m3 LNG bunker barge being built at Rosetti Marino in Italy for delivery in 2021 and the 7,500-m3 LNG/LEG/LPG carrier Coral Methane, which was converted to incorporate bunker capabilities in 2018, following a charter to Shell.

    There have been hundreds of ship-to-ship LNG bunkering operations performed and the regulatory framework is in place.

    In his overview of the development of the LNG bunker vessel market, Mr Munko noted that the first-generation vessels were sophisticated, designed for a specific geographic area and for specific operations. He said the target now was to simplify the second generation of LNG bunker vessels as a way of reducing costs. “Vessels that were being used in the small-scale LNG fleet are now being used in the LNG bunker market today, such as Coral Methane, which was converted in 2018.”

    Before 2017, the first LNG bunker vessel was Seagas, which was operating for years before the first LNGV newbuild hit the water, noted Mr Munko. Now, there are some 20 LNBVs in operation, and experience continues to grow. “Over 100 LNG bunker operations with Coralius, over 100 LNG bunker operations with FlexFueler and over 2,000 LNG bunker operations with Seagas; more and more LNG bunkering is becoming a standard operation,” said Mr Munko.

    “By 2021, we will have more than 20 LNG bunker vessels in the water. We have projections from different sources that by 2030 to supply the fuel to the clients we will need 70 to 100 LNG bunker vessels. We need to increase the footprint and the number of vessels,” said Mr Munko in response during a Q&A session following the panel presentations.

    With delivery of Avenir LNG’s Avenir Advantage to Petronas LNG, there are 20 LNGBVs currently in operation, with another 21 on order, according to DNV GL. Another 17 are under discussion – meaning there is still substantial capacity and investment needed in the LNGBV sector.

    Mr Giorgi expects “in the next 20 years to have an LNG bunker barge in every port.”

    As shipping moves towards meeting IMO’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in 2030 and 2050, both Mr Giorgi and Mr Munko agreed that LNG will play an integral role in the clean energy transition for years to come.

    Both Mr Giorgi and Mr Munko agreed that LNG will be part of the fuel mix for at least 20 years because it is the cleanest fuel available now at scale. Mr Munko said using LNG has allowed progress to be made “when it comes to NOx and SOx reduction and also even to CO2 reduction. And there’s also a means to blend, bioLNG or synthetic LNG to make that even a cleaner fuel; and the infrastructure is there.”

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