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How to assess a region’s LNG bunkering requirements

Tue 05 Jun 2018 by Mike Corkhill

How to assess a region’s LNG bunkering requirements

The Poseidon Med II project provides a sterling example of how best to go about introducing LNG bunkering to a region virtually devoid of LNG infrastructure 

The merits of LNG bunkering are being appreciated in more and more parts of the world and a growing number of shipowners are weighing up the dual-fuel option for their newbuildings. But LNG bunkering is a high-cost alternative requiring an integrated series of moves across an extended supply chain.

Which owner is going to order an LNG-powered ship without the necessary fuelling infrastructure in place, or at least the promise of it being ready? And which bunkering company is going to invest in an expensive LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV) without the certainty of an adequate number gas-powered vessels to serve? The classic chicken-and-egg dilemma.

For northern Europe and Scandinavia, the world leaders in using LNG as marine fuel, the challenges have been less than those pertaining in other parts of the world. The North and Baltic Sea emission control area regimes, with their strict controls governing ship atmospheric pollutants, were key drivers of the search for clean fuels.

In addition, there are many LNG import terminals which, through relatively straightforward modifications, have been adapted to enable the loading of LNG road tankers and, latterly, LNGBVs. Northern Europe has the pieces in play for shipowners, gas suppliers and ship-fuelling companies to make their LNG bunkering plays.

The process in the region was further facilitated by the pioneering work on LNG fuelling initiated in Norway at the start of the new millennium. Efforts were underpinned by DNV GL-led work on developing LNG bunkering guidelines designed to ensure safe fuelling operations. These guidelines were the precursors of the global regulatory regime governing the use of LNG as marine fuel that has now been established.

Greek challenges
Greece, a country with a proud maritime heritage, has been reviewing the LNG bunkering option for several years. The environmental commitments that come with EU membership and, more recently, the maritime industry’s decision to introduce the 0.5% global sulphur cap from 1 January 2020, have added impetus to the Greek deliberations. 

But challenges must be overcome. The Greek archipelago encompasses 2,500 islands and 162 ports. Some 165 of the islands are inhabited and, of these, 53 have a population of over 1,000. The popular destinations swell with holidaymakers during the summer months. The islands currently have no access to natural gas.

Faced with a maze of ferry services which crisscross the Aegean and Ionian Seas, the Greeks must decide which vessels are the most appropriate for LNG fuel and whether conversions of existing ferries are part of the solution. Greek shipyards will also have a role to play and must be prepared to deliver on chosen solutions.

Then, optimum LNGBV specifications need to be considered, as do their bases of local operations, LNG supply sources and the positioning of fuelling stations. Servicing other types of gas-powered vessels, such as a new generation of visiting cruise ships, has been part of deliberations.

On top of these factors, financing the LNG bunkering infrastructure must be arranged. Then there is the question of implementing the safety regime governing fuelling operations, encompassing the promulgation of rules applicable to the Greek scenario and ensuring that the training outreach programme covers all relevant operatives.

Fortunately for Greece, it has the Poseidon Med II project to assess its LNG bunkering needs and the groundwork done by the 26 marine, energy and finance company partners in the scheme has been impressive by any measure.

Greece’s Public Gas Corp (DEPA) is managing the Poseidon Med II project while DESFA, the country’s state-owned gas distribution company, is co-ordinating the technical aspects. 

Co-funded by the European Union, the €53.3M (US$62.4M) project is investigating the feasibility of LNG bunkering in six ports – Piraeus, Patras, Limassol, Heraklion, Venice and Igoumenitsa – as well as using the Revithoussa LNG import terminal near Athens as an LNG hub for the region. 

Moving ahead, ashore and afloat

The naval architect participants in Poseidon Med II have selected 10 existing ships for assessment as possible conversions to LNG fuelling. The majority are roro passenger (ropax) ferries but a tug, a bulk carrier, a car carrier and a product tanker are among the portfolio under review.

The specialists have also developed designs for two LNG-ready newbuilding vessels. A concept design for a conventional LNG-fuelled vessel is complemented by a detailed design for an innovative ropax ferry.

As regards LNGBVs, the Poseidon Med II team has assessed the viability of two bunker/feeder tankers, namely a smaller ship of approximately 1,000 m3 and a larger vessel of 7,000 m3 in capacity. For the larger LNGBV, Type C and membrane tank containment systems have been considered. The possibility of converting older, ropax vessels into LNG bunker barges has also been investigated. 

The Poseidon Med II participants have identified the Revithoussa LNG import terminal to the west of Athens as principal source of LNG, at least initially. Commissioned in 2000, Revithoussa is currently being provided with a third storage tank, modified jetty facilities and a road tanker loading bay.

In future, an LNG receiving terminal in the northeastern port of Alexandroupolis, based on using a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU), may have a role to play in Greece’s LNG bunkering network.        
Rogan Associates, part of the Poseidon Med II team, has carried out the engineering design work attendant on providing LNG bunkering infrastructure in the appointed ports. Following on, port masterplans have been updated to reflect the LNG fuelling option.

For each of the ports, aspects such as LNGBV berth requirements, mooring arrangements, transport connections, revetment works and modification of the land area were considered in the context of local sea and geotechnical conditions, terminal and navigational safety and economic impact. Where merited in a particular port, alternative infrastructure arrangements have been investigated.

In the western Greek port of Patras, for example, a storage capacity of 3,000 m3 has been proposed, along with regasification facilities, four road tanker loading slots and jetty facilities able to accommodate LNG vessels of 1,000-20,000 m3.    

Initial infrastructure

The project partners are just over halfway through their Poseidon Med II work programme, complete with its wide range of feasibility studies and community outreach meetings. Completion of the project is set for 2020. 

The leading participants in Poseidon Med II met in Athens on 21 May 2018 to provide an update on progress to date. The symposium was co-hosted by the Hellenic ShortSea Shipowners’ Association and the Association of Passenger Shipping Companies.

In his keynote presentation, DEPA project manager George Polychroniou reported that the work to date has provided a sound understanding of the LNG bunkering solutions that will work best for Greece. 

He pointed out that the truck loading station at the Revithoussa LNG terminal and the FSRU-based receiving facility at Alexandroupolis will be in operation by 2020, as will at least three new LNG-powered vessels that will serve the Greek archipelago. 

The Poseidon Med II partners have done their homework and the country is about to start to reap the benefit.

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