An ATB, America’s third and largest LNG bunker supply vessel, will join the fleet this year supporting the growth of LNG as a fuel and advancing NorthStar Midstream’s growing small-scale ambitions
America’s third and largest LNG bunker vessel yet will enter service by the end of 2021, joining a growing LNG bunkering infrastructure in the US, underpinning the expanding global and US LNG-fuelled fleet.
Based on an articulated tug barge (ATB) unit design, Clean Canaveral is being built at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for Polaris New Energy (PNE). Plans call for PNE to operate the vessel supplying LNG as fuel to vessels on the US east coast for NorthStar Midstream, owner of Polaris New Energy.
A veteran of the US tug and barge market, Northstar Midstream senior vice president Tim Casey is responsible for overseeing PNE and NorthStar Midstream’s partnership with Berkshire Hathaway in JAX LNG, a small-scale LNG facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Sourcing LNG at JAX LNG, PNE intends to use Clean Canaveral to deliver LNG north and south from Jacksonville to ports like Port Canaveral, Miami, and to other ports up the Atlantic coast.
Speaking at Riviera Maritime Media’s LNG Bunkering & Refuelling, Americas virtual conference, Mr Casey described some of the earliest beginnings of the US LNG bunkering market, and NorthStar Midstream’s strategy for supporting its development.
“LNG is the future fuel for the shipping industry to reduce greenhouse gases and will become the long-term fuel as new sources of renewable natural gas are developed. JAX LNG was initially completed in 2019, and the initial phase was built specifically to service the LNG bunkering industry in Jacksonville, Florida,” said Mr Casey. JAX LNG has a liquefaction capacity of 450,000 litres a day, with storage for 7.6M litres. The facility has a marine loading dock and two LNG tanker truck-loading bays.
LNG production will grow at the small-scale facility, said Mr Casey, under a current second phase of expansion, increasing liquefaction capacity by an additional 900,000 litres a day, while adding 7.6M litres of storage for a total capacity of up to 1.4M litres a day and storage up to 15.2M litres. A planned third phase would push total production capacity up to 2.3M litres a day.
LNG bunkering experience
Clean Canaveral is not NorthStar Midstream’s first foray into LNG bunkering. NorthStar Midstream had a hand in the first US LNG bunker barge, Mr Casey explained. “We originally designed Clean Jacksonville in 2015, starting the construction process, and then sold that construction to TOTE Maritime to support their need to bunker their Marlin-class ships in Jacksonville, Florida,” said Mr Casey.
Under an agreement with TOTE, NorthStar Midstream was able to retain marketing rights for Clean Jacksonville, explained Mr Casey. This allowed JAX LNG and TOTE Services to complete their first ship-to-ship LNG bunkering of a foreign-flagged vessel at the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT). Crews loaded 1,800 m3 of LNG fuel from Clean Jacksonville to the dual-fuel, Liberia-flagged vehicle carrier Siem Confucius at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.
Mr Casey said JAX LNG provides the LNG and berth to load Clean Jacksonville in Jacksonville, where the vessel “has made over 130 deliveries to the TOTE ships since it started operating in 2019.” This reliable service has “probably the most (LNG) bunker deliveries of any vessel in the world,” he added.
As for Clean Canaveral, the ocean barge is designed by Vard Marine, with an overall length of 104 m, beam of 20 m, depth of 9.9 m and four 1,350-m3 IMO Type C tanks for a total capacity of 5,400 m3. The cylindrical tanks, built in Qidong, China at CIMC Sinopacific Offshore & Engineering, were supplied by Wärtsilä Gas Solutions. The four cargo tanks, fitted with 300-mm insulation, were installed by the shipyard below deck on the bunkering barge; only the domes will be visible once completed.
Besides the tanks, the full Wärtsilä scope for this covers the system design and integration, the LNG pumps, a ship-to-ship transfer system, ship-to-shore communications link, all necessary safety and control equipment, valves, instrumentation, and a gas combustion unit.
One interesting aspect of the ABS-classed barge 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 ocean tug by both hard wired and wireless connections, in compliance with classification requirements.
Ocean tug under construction
While Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is building the ocean tank barge, Master Boat Builders, Alabama, is constructing the associated 4,000-hp ocean tug for delivery in July. The tug will transit from Alabama to Sturgeon Bay, where it will pick up the barge once it is delivered in November. The ATB vessel will sail to Jacksonville, where it will undergo testing before beginning commercial operations by the end of 2021. Clean Canaveral is expected to serve the cruise ship sector but will be available for spot LNG bunker deliveries.
A JAK ATB coupling system will be used to connect the ocean tug in a notch of the stern of the tank barge, forming the ATB vessel. Beacon Finland technical director Timo Rintala said the unit will be fitted with a JAK 400PHL-L coupling system, which enables a tug to stay in the notch in the stern of a barge during loading or unloading operations. “The JAK ATB coupling system is a pneumatically actuated, electrically controlled ATB connection system furnished with a hydraulic interlock system and a lightering feature,” explained Mr Rintala. He said Beacon Finland has worked previously with Master Boat Builders on the Cape Ann-class ATB tugs for Kirby Corporation.
The ATB design has been extremely popular in the US since the enactment of OPA 90, but Mr Rintala said Beacon Finland is currently working on ATB concepts in Europe. “Beacon Finland is also developing a heavy-duty lightering system that will enable an ATB to load or unload a barge at sea.”
Besides Clean Canaveral and Q-LNG Transport’s recently commissioned Q-LNG 4000, additional LNG ATB bunker supply vessels could be built for the US. PNE holds options for the construction of two additional LNG bunker vessels at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. Mr Casey notes there are multiple sources of LNG in the US on the east, Gulf and west coasts that could provide supply for the global transition to cleaner energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting decarbonisation. “We’re focusing on being that last mile of transportation from the supply source to the shipping customer,” he concluded.
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