Liquefied Natural Gas Bunkering

What is Liquefied Natural Gas Bunkering?

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport. By lowering its temperature to below its boiling point of approximately -162° Celsius, 600 cubic metres of natural gas are condensed to 1 cubic metre. This makes it possible to transport gas over long distances, without the need of pipelines, typically in specially designed ships or road tankers.

LNG bunkering is simply the practice of providing liquefied natural gas fuel to a ship for its own consumption. This is done through a cost-efficient infrastructure of bunker tanks in ports, bunker ships and barges and direct filling when the ship is lying alongside a quay (see Fig.1).


Fig. 1 : Bunkering infrastructure



What are the advantages of LNG Bunkering?

The advantage of LNG is the vast reduction in pollutant caused by the more traditional method of fuelling ships such as heavy fuel oil (HFO), marine diesel fuel (MDO) and marine gas oil (MGO). As an illustration, the use of LNG fuel results in 20% lower greenhouse gas emissions compared with Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO).

Moreover, the relative low prices of natural gas and LNG compared to current high residual bunker and distillate fuel prices in Europe adds to the attractiveness of LNG as an alternative marine fuel. There also is a growing demand for LNG with estimations that LNG consumed as marine fuel will reach 1 million tonnes in 2020 and will increase rapidly to 8.5 million tonnes by 2025.

LNG as a ship fuel can help significantly reduce the environmental impacts of shipping operations, while allowing for real economic gains. It is growing in importance across the marine shipping industry after stricter EU environmental standards entered into force in January 2015. Both the number of merchant ships using LNG and the number of ports where LNG is available will increase significantly in the coming years.


Future developments in LNG Bunkering

Some of the European ports where major development projects are underway to set up LNG bunkering facilities and infrastructure for ocean-going vessels are located along the main stages of Blue Corridor 2016, around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Estonia – The construction of a LNG terminal in Tallin was approved by its port authority on 30 June 2015. The design of the Tallinn LNG terminal includes a storage facility capable of holding 90 000 cm of LNG, and the ability to receive ships of up to 75 000 cm capacity. The terminal will be capable of releasing 9 mcm of natural gas per day, and will also include facilities for ship bunkering and truck loading

Lithuania – Lithuania’s Litgas plans to enter a new field of activity soon: small-scale LNG supply and bunkering. In July Klaipedos nafta and Statoil have decided to explore opportunities for upgrading the LNG terminal in Klaipeda and developing bunkering facilities there.

The Netherlands – the Rotterdam port will soon become the leading European hub for the entire LNG supply chain, with the finalisation of the LNG break bulk facility due in 2016

Germany – Germany’s first LNG bunkering terminals will be operational this year.

Denmark – Denmark is one of the leaders in LNG bunkering, with the country’s major ports actively exploring opportunities in the sector. In close cooperation with the Norwegian shipping company Fjord Line, the country operates two LNG-powered cruise ferries and aims to offer bunkering to other ships running on LNG.

Finland – There are several planned and ongoing projects around LNG bunkering. In the port of HaminaKotka, a 30.000 m3 LNG terminal with the facilities to receive, take out, store and deliver is estimated to be in use by autumn 2018. The port of Helsinki will create floating units to take care of LNG bunkering. The LNG terminal of Turku will have a maximum volume capacity of 30.000 m3.


1Frederick Adamchakm, LNG as marine fuel, Poten & Partners