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Jacksonville, the premier US LNG bunkering port, moves into higher gear

Tue 17 Apr 2018 by Mike Corkhill

Jacksonville, the premier US LNG bunkering port, moves into higher gear
Isla Bella has been bunkered at its Jacksonville berth for the past two years using a fleet of LNG tank containers

After a modest start, a series of infrastructure projects are about to mature and propel the Florida port into the LNG bunkering big league

To call the northeastern Florida port of Jacksonville the premier US LNG bunkering location is currently not much of an accolade, considering the nascent state of gas-powered shipping in the country.

A pair of dual-fuel container ships have been bunkered with LNG in the port since January 2016 using an elaborate but not particularly efficient truck-to-ship (TTS) transfer procedure involving a fleet of 25 40-foot ISO tank containers. To date, this has been Jacksonville’s sole claim to LNG bunkering fame.

However, behind the scenes an LNG production and bunkering infrastructure that will streamline vessel fuelling has been taking shape in the port. This same infrastructure will facilitate local distribution and small-scale exports of LNG throughout the Caribbean region.

Committed shipowners

The two prime movers behind the Jacksonville developments are shipowners Tote Maritime and Crowley Maritime. Tote has already put two LNG-fuelled Marlin-class container ships into service and the first of the pair, Isla Bella, is the vessel that introduced Jacksonville, and the US as a whole, to LNG bunkering operations back in January 2016.

Crowley Maritime is poised to commission two Commitment-class container/roro (con-ro) ships that will also have dual-fuel engines. In April 2018 the first of these, El Coqui, was bunkered with 41 road tanker loads of LNG in an inaugural TTS operation at the VT Halter yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi where it was built.   

When placing their recent newbuilding contracts, both Tote and Crowley have opted for dual-fuel ships as the optimum route to compliance with the North American and US Caribbean emission control area regimes introduced in 2012 and 2014, respectively. 

Tote’s Marlin-class pair, Isla Bella and Perla Del Caribe, are the world’s first LNG-fuelled container ships and serve on the Jacksonville-Puerto Rico route. Each is able to carry 3,100 TEU and each is equipped with a pair of 900 m3 IMO Type C LNG bunker tanks.

Crowley’s two dual-fuel con-ro ships, El Coqui and Taino, offer space for 2,400 TEU and 400 vehicles. Each ship is equipped with three 770 m3 Type C LNG bunker tanks and, like the Tote ships, the Commitment-class pair will serve the Jacksonville-Puerto Rico route. 

Among the cargoes carried by El Coqui and Taino will be Crowley’s own LNG tank containers. Carib Energy, an affiliate company, has received US Department of Energy permission to export up to 300,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of LNG in tank containers for 20 years. 

JAX LNG infrastructure

In Tote’s current bunkering procedure the cryogenic ISO tanks are loaded at a peakshaving plant in Macon, Georgia and trucked 430 km to Jacksonville where the LNG is transferred to the Marlin-class ships at their dedicated Dames Point berth.

Tote utilises a specially built, skid-mounted, cryogenic loading manifold to enable simultaneous LNG transfers from up to four ISO tanks. The device was developed by Applied Cryo Technologies, provider of the ISO tank fleet.

This TTS transfer procedure is about to be replaced with a streamlined barge-to-ship bunkering operation centred wholly within the port. Fuel for the ships will be produced by JAX LNG, a new 200,000 tpa liquefaction plant that Pivotal LNG and NorthStar Midstream are building near the Jacksonville Port Authority’s Dames Point Marine Terminal. 

Pivotal LNG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Gas Company while NorthStar Midstream is a joint venture in which Oaktree Capital and Clean Marine Energy are involved. The partners have built a 7,500 m3 atmospheric pressure LNG storage tank at the site.

Bunker fuel produced by JAX LNG will then be shuttled the short distance from the plant to the box ship berth by Clean Jacksonville, the first US LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV). Clean Jacksonville is a dedicated, non-propelled 2,200 m3 bunkering barge currently nearing completion at the Conrad yard in Texas.

The LNGBV will be shunted to Tote’s Dames Point berth by a service tug. The barge features a single tank, built to the GTT Mark III Flex membrane design, and will have a boil-off gas (BOG) rate of 0.38% per day. Although this is over three times the BOG rate of conventional-size LNG carriers with Mark III Flex tanks, it is not so critical as the barge will be constantly engaged in bunkering and tank refill operations. 

Clean Jacksonville will be able to transfer LNG to the container ships at rates of up to 500 m3/hour. Container ship fuelling operations will be facilitated by the barge’s REACH4 transfer arm, a bunker mast technology developed by GTT. 

JAX LNG is expected to be liquefying gas and Clean Jacksonville carrying out barge-to-ship LNG bunkering operations with the Tote container ships during Q2 2018. 

Eagle LNG supports Crowley

Eagle LNG Partners, a subsidiary of Ferus Natural Gas Fuels, has been contracted to provide the LNG bunkers for Crowley’s Commitment-class con-ros in Jacksonville. To meet its obligations under the ship-fuelling deal, as well as to supply LNG to domestic and international markets, Eagle LNG is constructing a network of LNG facilities in Jacksonville.

The centerpiece of its new network is an LNG export plant to be built on the St Johns River in the northern reaches of the port zone. The facility will feature three medium-size liquefaction trains, each able to produce 300,000 tpa of LNG, a 45,000 m3 atmospheric pressure LNG storage tank, a marine jetty and road tanker loading bays.

Approval of the terminal project by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is imminent and Eagle is targeting Q3 2019 as the date for commencing LNG production by the first of the three trains.

Eagle LNG is backing up this principal liquefaction plant with two other LNG facilities in the port. The company’s Maxville terminal in western Jacksonville is a small-scale liquefaction unit while the third facility is an LNG fuelling depot at the Talleyrand Marine Terminal.

Maxville entered service in March 2018 with the loading of LNG ISO tanks for delivery to a customer in Puerto Rico. The facility’s atmospheric pressure tank holds 3,800 m3 of LNG while the liquefaction unit’s production is initially running at 50,000 tpa, building to 200,000 tpa at a later date.

The Talleyrand depot is able to store 2,000 m3 of LNG in two horizontal pressure vessel storage tanks. Eagle LNG will operate Maxville and the Talleyrand fuelling station in tandem to bunker Crowley’s two Commitment-class con-ros. 

The Eagle LNG fuelling station is adjacent to the Talleyrand Marine Terminal berth where the Crowley ships are homeported. Maxville is ready, the Talleyrand fuelling station is ready and El Coqui is about to go into service running on gas. 

Tote Maritime, Crowley Maritime, JAX LNG and Eagle LNG are poised to establish Jacksonville as not only the benchmark US port for LNG bunkering operations but also one of the leading locations worldwide for the fuelling of LNG-powered ships.     

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