A new fleet of larger LNGBVs is being built in the US to support the LNG-fuelled cruise ships and car carriers set to debut over the next two years
While no small-scale LNG carriers have yet been built in the US, the capacities of LNG bunkering vessels (LNGBVs) are increasing. This is underpinning the use of LNG as a fuel in new generation LNG-fuelled cruises ships and cargo ships entering service in 2020.
ABS director of global gas development Aditya Aggarwal says the success of new LNGBVs being built in the US will benefit from experiences with North America’s first LNG bunker barge.
“Clean Jacksonville paved the way for other projects and for the regulators to develop necessary rule requirements,” Mr Aggarwal tells LNG Shipping & Terminals.
“This and other early projects continue to provide valuable lessons learned for the US Jones Act market and are expected to lay the foundation for ship-to-ship (STS) LNG bunkering in North America.”
Mr Aggarwal says that collaboration among key stakeholders – vessel owner, ship designer, shipbuilder, US Coast Guard and class – is especially critical to maintain transparency on the technical requirements for the projects, considering that LNG bunker operations vary greatly based on the characteristics of the receiving vessels and ports.
“The barge will operate as an unmanned unit”
“Depending on the bunkering operation, the layout of the unit or the design of certain systems may need to be customised to minimise risks,” he says. “Any deviation from the regulations needs to be highlighted early in the project development phase to ensure it meets the operational requirements for the project and allows smooth approval from the flag administration and classification society.”
ABS holds the distinction of being selected to class Clean Jacksonville and the two other LNGBVs currently being built in the US. Probably the world’s most sophisticated inland LNG bunker barge, Clean Jacksonville has a Mark III Flex cargo containment system and a specially designed loading arm developed by GTT, which allow it to refuel TOTE Maritime’s dual-fuelled, 3,100-teu container ships Isla Bella and Perla del Caribe. Built by Conrad Shipyard in Orange, Texas, Clean Jacksonville, with a capacity of 2,200 m3 of LNG, is operated by Foss Maritime, a sister company to TOTE.
Unlike Clean Jacksonville, the two newest US-built LNGBVs will be oceangoing. One of the most highly anticipated of these is the 4,000 m3 capacity Q-LNG articulated tug barge (ATB) unit under construction at VT Halter shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. According to a VT Halter Marine spokesperson, while there have been no facility shutdowns, projects at the shipyard have experienced delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Delivery of the ATB is scheduled for Q2 2020.
Named Q-LNG 4000, the ATB LNG bunker and transport vessel is being built by Q-LNG Transport, owned by Harvey Gulf International Marine (HGIM) chief executive Shane Guidry. A pioneer in the use of LNG as a fuel in the offshore market, HGIM built an LNG bunkering station at Port Fourchon, Louisiana, to support the refuelling of its platform supply vessels. While Q-LNG Transport’s Q-LNG 4000 will be the first to bunker LNG for cruise ships in the US, its design flexibility will allow it to handle a variety of STS transfers.
Under long-term charter to Shell Trading (US), the ATB will initially support bunkering Carnival’s massive, 6,700-passenger, XL class cruise ship Mardi Gras and Siem Car Carrier’s two dual-fuel pure car truck carriers. Q-LNG 4000 will source its LNG from the Elba Island LNG terminal in Savannah, Georgia.
Q-LNG has also received US Coast Guard approval to build two larger variants of the Q-LNG 4000, with capacities of 5,400 m3 and 8,000 m3.
An even larger ATB LNGBV that will operate in the Port Canaveral and Miami area was ordered by Polaris New Energy (PNE), a wholly owned subsidiary of NorthStar Midstream, a joint venture partner with Pivotal LNG in JAX LNG in Jacksonville, Florida.
Sourcing LNG from JAX LNG, the PNE barge is designed to have capacity of 5,400 m3 of LNG stored in four 1,350-m3 IMO Type C cargo tanks. Wärtsilä is supplying the cargo handling system to shipbuilder Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the barge, with delivery set for H2 2021. PNE holds an option to build two more LNG bunker barges.
One interesting aspect of the barge, says Mr Aggarwal, is that it will operate as an unmanned unit, and the essential systems and equipment will be controlled and monitored from a Remote Control and Monitoring Station (RCMS) on the tug by both hard wired and wireless connections, in compliance with classification requirements.
JAX LNG’s neighbour, the Port of Jacksonville (JAXPORT), is home to the Talleyrand Marine Terminal which serves as the bunkering facility for Crowley Maritime’s two Jones Act, dual-fuel container/roll-on/roll-off (ConRo) vessels Taíno and El Coquí.
Eagle LNG’s Talleyrand LNG Bunker Station has a design capacity flow rate of 10,000 litres per minute, allowing it to refuel one of Crowley’s vessels in less than eight hours. The Talleyrand LNG Bunker Station is routinely filled via truck from Eagle LNG’s nearby Maxville LNG Facility.
On the US west coast, completion of the Tacoma LNG plant is expected in Q1 2021, according to Puget LNG senior business development manager Jonathan Harris. With a nameplate capacity of 1,000 m3 of LNG per day, the small-scale LNG facility has on-site storage of 8,000 m3. Owned jointly by Puget Sound Energy (PSE), with a 43% stake, and Puget LNG, with a 57% interest, Tacoma LNG is being developed at a cost of US$310M.
Located at the Port of Tacoma, Tacoma LNG will provide peak shaving capacity to PSE customers and fuel sales to maritime and on-road customers. Among Puget LNG’s biggest maritime customers will be TOTE Maritime’s two Orca class roro vessels that operate in weekly service to Anchorage, Alaska.
“Our marine loading pier is complete, the first on the US west coast,” says Mr Harris. An SVT marine loading arm will be used to refuel the TOTE roros but will also have the capability to load bunker barges.
Puget LNG has explored the possibility of constructing an LNG bunker barge, says Mr Harris, working with Crowley Maritime’s naval architectural design arm Jensen Maritime.
Maturing European infrastructure
Activity in the US is part of a vibrant outlook for LNG bunkering infrastructure. Globally, there are currently 13 LNGBVs in operation, 22 on order and another 14 under discussion, reports class society DNV GL.
Underpinned by European Union (EU) policy, LNG refuelling availability in major ports in Europe is growing rapidly. The expectations are that at least one LNG bunkering port will be developed in each EU member state. This will include about 10% of European coastal and inland ports, a total of 139 ports, says SEA/LNG. Coastal port LNG infrastructure will be completed by 2020 and for inland ports by 2025.
Europe also boasts the most LNGBVs in operation, on order or under discussion, with some 22 vessels. Among the newest of these under development is an 8,000-m3 LNG bunker barge for Dutch LNG supplier Titan LNG, which has contracted Norwegian shipbroker Fearnleys to tender for the newbuild. To be named Titan Hyperion, the LNGBV will incorporate four years of lessons learned from LNG bunkering and serve as a ‘mother ship’ for Titan LNG’s two existing vessels, FlexFueler001 and FlexFueler002. Titan Hyperion will operate in the ARA region by 2021.
Titan LNG chief technology officer Ronald van Selm says Titan Hyperion “will be ideal for servicing large tankers, cruise, container and offshore vessels.”
Using the 10,000-m3 small-scale LNG carrier Coral Fraseri, chartered from Anthony Veder, Titan LNG delivered a record 3,300 tonnes of LNG to refuel the dual-fuel semi-submersible crane vessel Sleipnir in the Port of Rotterdam. Owned by Heerema Marine Contractors, Sleipnir is the largest vessel of its type in the world. The STS transfer took less than 24 hours to complete.
“Our marine loading pier is complete, the first on the US west coast”
Nordic gas supplier Gasum marked a milestone in January, completing its 200th LNG bunkering while refuelling Fjord Line’s cruise ferry Stavangerfjord using Coralius, the first-European-built LNGBV.
Gasum’s Øygarden LNG production facility will supply the LNG for 10 LNG-fuelled coastal cruise ships being built for Hurtigruten and Havila Kystruten. Norway’s Bergen Tankers has awarded a contract to Høglund Gas Solutions to deliver a cargo handling system to convert a fuel oil bunkering vessel into an LNG bunkering vessel – the first such vessel based in Norway.
Built in 2010 at Nevsky Shipbuilding in Russia, the 47-m Oslo Tank will be renamed Bergen LNG and converted at Westcon Florø as part of a long-term charter with Shell Gasnor, operating out of Bergen harbour in Norway starting in Q4 2020.
LNG bunkering in Asia
As the world’s second largest importer of LNG, China is investing in LNG bunkering infrastructure for its inland waterways and coastal areas, anticipating being able to meet LNG demand from all vessel types.
South Korea offers LNG bunkering in the port of Incheon and is considering a second facility in Busan. Shell is chartering Korea Line’s new 18,000-m3 LNG bunkering vessel under construction at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, with delivery in H1 2022.
Korea Line owns South Korea’s first LNG bunkering vessel, SM Jeju LNG2, which has a capacity of 7,500 m3 and is under 20-year charter to LNG importer Kogas. The Panamanian-flagged SM Jeju LNG2, and its sister vessel, the small-scale LNG tanker SM Jeju LNG1, were both built by South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) under a contract valued at about US$100M.
Both LNG vessels are fitted with the KC-1 type LNG membrane systems, jointly developed by Kogas, SHI, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, Japan and Australia are also working to develop LNG bunkering facilities. FueLNG, a joint venture of Shell and Singapore shipbuilder Keppel Offshore & Marine, is building Singapore’s first LNGBV, set for delivery in H2 2020. Underpinning Singapore’s strategy to be a central hub for LNG refuelling, the 7,500-m3 LNGBV will be based in the Port of Singapore.