LNG bunker fleet could increase fivefold by 2030

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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.

At the panel session LNG bunkering: fuelled by future needs, panelists 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.

Giovanni Giorgi (OLT Offshore LNG Toscana): “In the next 20 years there will be an LNG bunker barge in every port”
Giovanni Giorgi (OLT Offshore LNG Toscana): “In the next 20 years there will be an LNG bunker barge in every port”
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.