Case study on world's first purpose-built LNG bunkering vessel published

Designed to illustrate the challenges Gas4Sea faced when developing LNG bunkering services in North West Europe.

The LNG bunkering vessel Engie Zeebrugge at its home port of Zeebrugge. Image credit: Gas4Sea

Updated on 11 May 2018 14:31 GMT

SEA\LNG, the multi-sector industry coalition aiming to accelerate the widespread adoption of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel, has published a case study on Gas4Sea's LNG bunkering vessel, the Engie Zeebrugge.

The document is designed to illustrate the first-mover challenges supplier Gas4Sea faced when developing LNG bunkering services in North West Europe.

The process involved designing the world's first purpose-built LNG bunkering vessel in the absence of relevant regulation, and also the challenge of creating customer confidence when faced with what the coalition describes as a "lack of understanding in the shipping industry of LNG as a marine fuel".

Key objectives

Partners Engie, Mitsubishi and NYK Line teamed up to form Gas4Sea in 2014. The three firms had complementary activities, capabilities and global operations and an "ambition to be a first mover," Sea\LNG explains.

Gas4Sea's three key objectives were: first, to establish the business case for LNG as a marine fuel with a reliable anchor customer and in a market where the partners would be able to capitalize on their existing value chain participation and track record; second, to present LNG as a viable fuelling solution for the shipping industry, supported by a live business model and real activities; and third, develop a LNG fuel supply chain based on healthy economics for every stakeholder in the project.

North West Europe

According to Sea\LNG, North West Europe (NWE) was an "obvious starting point" for the project partners - an emission control area (ECA) was already in place; Engie already had interest in the Zeebrugge LNG regasification terminal; and NYK had a share in UECC, which was building two LNG-fuelled pure car truck carriers (PCTCs) to operate in the region.

Gas4Sea aimed to capitalise on being a first mover, gain brand recognition, and expand to serve customers elsewhere in the NWE ECA and then globally in strategic locations.

The partners also considered that it was vitally important to work with a strong local partner, where appropriate, in order to bring market intelligence and business relationships to the venture - thus making it easier to provide added assurance to potential customers. In Zeebrugge this was Fluxys, the Belgian natural gas transmission system operator.

Designing the vessel and supply procedures

In terms of designing the supply vessel, during the early stages of development, the decision was made to create a bunker vessel that was able to accommodate a wide range of ship types.

Also, in order to address the challenge of there being a lack of technical standards, the Gas4Sea technical team worked closely with Korean shipyard Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction and class society Bureau Veritas, where they ensured that there was a clear distinction between the 'must have' and 'nice to have' features of the vessel.

Gas4Sea also collaborated with Zeebrugge port authority MBZ, terminal operator ICO, and other organisations such as the local fire brigade to create a regulatory framework from scratch.