As I settle into the editor’s chair for LNG World Shipping, the mood surrounding LNG is buoyant. The demand for LNG continues to grow and 2019 is expected to be a record year for supply in terms of both production growth and new project FIDs, according to analysts.
As an American marine journalist with some 30 years’ experience covering the marine market, it is an exciting time to cover the LNG market. That’s because the US is poised to triple its exports by the end of this year and become the world’s largest exporter of LNG in less than five years. It is an astounding turn of events considering that Cheniere Energy shipped its first LNG from its Sabine Pass export terminal in 2016. Mexican, South Korea and China are some of the biggest importers of US LNG. There has even been some talk of constructing small LNG carriers in the US. That has not happened since 1980.
While there will be plenty to report on in the US, it will not be the sole focus of our coverage at LNG World Shipping. Through our print and digital magazines, online media channels and in person at events, we will provide a much broader view.
Our regional LNG development coverage will take you around the globe, with insightful reports on what is going on in Asia, southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas. Among the heavyweights we will focus on is China, which is a major importer of LNG as it looks to switch from coal-fired power plants to clean-burning LNG. While the demand for LNG from China is expected to slow from its torrid pace in 2017 and 2018, analysts such as Wood Mackenzie still expect China’s demand to grow by a very respectable 20% – by far the largest source of LNG demand growth in the global market.
We will look at innovation in the marketplace, including icebreaking LNG carriers that are enabling Russia to transport LNG from the Yamal LNG export terminal at Sabetta on Ob Bay in the Arctic Circle to customers worldwide. We will also look at advancements in FSRU and floating LNG technology.
As we approach the IMO 2020 sulphur cap, LNG as a marine fuel will continue to grow in the coming year and beyond to become a more significant source of LNG demand. As Peter Keller, SEA/LNG chairman pointed out in a commentary on 17 January, the LNG-powered fleet has grown globally from 118 vessels in operation in 2017, to 143 in operation as of last year – with a further 135 on order and 135 LNG-ready ships either in operation or on order. The vessel types are wide ranging, and include tankers, container ships, car carriers, cruise ships and bulkers. Mr Keller’s company, TOTE, was a pioneer in the LNG-fuelled vessel market and now has more than three years of service with its container ships operating between Jacksonville, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A study performed by simulation and analytics specialist Opsiana and commissioned by SEA/LNG makes the economic case for LNG as a marine fuel as compared to burning HFO with exhaust gas scrubbers or compliant low sulphur fuel. The study, released 23 January, examines a newbuild 14,000-teu container ship operating between Asia-US West Coast in liner trade. “The study,” said Mr Keller, “unequivocally shows that for this vessel type, on this trade route, LNG as a marine fuel delivers the best return on investment on a net present value basis over a conservative 10-year horizon, with fast payback periods ranging from one to two years.”
Of course, a key element for increased use of LNG as a marine fuel is its availability either in port or via a bunkering vessel. In the coming months, LNG World Shipping will be reporting on investments in the latest LNG bunkering infrastructure development at ports and terminals, construction and delivery of the newest bunkering vessels and development of specialised bunkering and cargo handling technologies. LNG bunkering has grown to encompass 24 out of the world’s top 25 and all but one of the top 10 bunker ports globally. From a lone operational LNG bunker vessel in 2017, SEA/LNG estimates that as many as 30 will be in operation within the next four to five years at key bunkering nodes in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America.
Not to be forgotten, we will also cover the ship’s greatest safety mechanism – the crew – diving into training and simulation. We will also have a few more surprises for expanded coverage in store for the coming year. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any areas that you would like to see covered in the months ahead. I look forward to hearing from you.