For Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works Hilde Crevits, it is important that transport over water should progress sustainably. The shipping trade is increasingly seeing liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a new fuel for ships.
Starting in 2015, stricter standards are applicable to ships’ sulphur emissions. Complying with these stricter standards is a major challenge for the maritime sector. Ports will be confronted with the challenge of safely storing LNG and making it available to ships. For all these reasons, Minister Hilde Crevits, together with the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent and Fluxys LNG, commissioned a study to be carried out on how LNG can be offered in the Flemish ports. The 23 recommendations from the study were turned into practical solutions by the various players.
Why use LNG as shipping fuel?
The International Maritime Organization will be imposing stricter limits on ships’ sulphur emissions in the so-called Sulphur Emission Control Areas starting in 2015. Among others, the Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Ocean fall within this area. The sulphur limits outside these areas will also sharply decrease starting in 2020. Complying with these stricter standards is a major challenge for the maritime sector.
Because of the tighter international regulations coming into force in 2015, LNG is presenting itself as an attractive solution for complying with the stricter emission standards while at the same time keeping the shipping trade competitive. After all, low-sulphur marine diesel is an extremely costly alternative to the heavy fuel oil mostly used now. And the other alternative, equipping vessels with desulphurising installations, is just as expensive, not to mention the fact that the technology is still under development.
Liquefied natural gas therefore appears to be the shipping fuel of the future. LNG is environmentally friendly and by far the cheapest alternative to heavy fuel oil. LNG has a better pricing structure, the sulphur and fine particle emissions are negligible, the NOx emissions are 85-90% lower and, moreover, the carbon emissions drop by 15-20%.
Ports are confronted with the challenge of safely storing LNG and making it available to ships. In anticipation of this, Minister Crevits, together with the ports of Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent and the infrastructure manager FluxysLNG had the study “Modaliteiten van het aanbieden van LNG als scheepsbrandstof in de Vlaamse zeehavens” (Modalities for the provision of LNG as shipping fuel in the Flemish seaports) carried out.
What changes in practice?
The study indicates the points to which the legal and regulatory framework must be adjusted. The existing rules and standards with regard to every step in the LNG supply chain are summarised at the local, Flemish, federal and international level. In addition, the gaps in the regulatory framework must be considered. There were approximately 23 recommendations formulated.
In the short term, the necessary measures will be taken by the Government of Flanders, the Flemish sea ports, FluxysLNG and the other players involved to transpose the measures, which will make the bunkering of LNG in the Flemish sea ports possible.
This cooperation fits into the Flanders Port Area.
The results of the market study indicated the potential share of LNG in the bunker market of the various ports. Based on this information, the Flemish sea ports can make the right strategic decisions for the expansion of the LNG infrastructure. The logistics model can be used to weigh the various LNG provisioning possibilities against one another. The risk and safety analysis provides insight into the potential risks of using and distributing LNG in a port environment.
LNG in Europe
On Tuesday 11 September, the European Parliament approved the amended European Sulphur Directive. Not only does this Directive transpose the International Maritime Organization’s limits into European legislation, it makes a number of standards even stricter in order to reduce sulphur emissions as from 2015.
The use of LNG is also being researched on a European level. The purpose of the “North European LNG Infrastructure Project” was to sketch out a European framework for the use of LNG as shipping fuel, including the required developments in infrastructure. This study is therefore complementary to the Flemish LNG study. Nineteen recommendations were formulated in the final report of this study. This study was headed by the Danish Maritime Authority. The Department of Mobility and Public Works, the port of Zeebrugge and the infrastructure manager FluxysLNG were partners in this study.
Minister Hilde Crevits said: “In order for transport over water to progress in a sustainable manner, the production of hazardous and polluting emissions by burning shipping fuel must be reduced. LNG is environmentally friendly and by far the cheapest alternative to heavy fuel oil. By completing this study on the various aspects of bunkering LNG in the Flemish ports, we are anticipating the stricter standards imposed by the International Maritime Organization on the sulphur emissions from shipping fuel. Flanders has now taken a clear step towards offering LNG in our sea ports. This makes Flanders one of the European leaders concerning the development of LNG infrastructure. Furthermore, Europe approved the amended Sulphur Directive the day before yesterday. Expanding the scope of the Directive has had the fortunate effect of strengthening the competitive position of the ports.”
LNG World News Staff, September 21, 2012