The Gate Terminal B.V. in the Port of Rotterdam will serve as Shell’s storage and distribution point for the supply of liquid natural gas (LNG) fuel to Containerships’ forthcoming LNG vessels.
Up to 12 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas can be pumped each year through Holland’s first LNG import terminal, located in the port of Maavslakte. The terminal serves as a central storage facility, distribution centre and hub for LNG fuel, which is forwarded to its final destinations – mainly in northern Europe.
The companies behind the Gate terminal, which operates round the clock and 365 days a year, include Vopak – a global provider of tank storage services – and Gasunie, a gas infrastructure specialist. So far, the customers consist of five of Europe’s key energy suppliers, which have signed long-term agreements entitling them to use some of the terminal’s throughput capacity.
One of these is Shell, which is developing its own LNG bunker vessel to supply fuel to LNG-powered ships.
“We operate as an import and storage terminal for the companies we serve. Whereas we own the facilities and provide the service, they own the stored LNG,” says Guus Vogels, Account Manager at the Gate Terminal.
The terminal’s operations include the reception, storage, gasification and distribution of LNG. The overall storage space totals three huge tanks, each with a capacity of 180,000 cubic metres.
“The gas reaches us in liquefied form in tankers, from which it is pumped into onshore storage tanks through a tightly controlled and secured system. Since the gas is stored in liquid form at about -160 degrees Celsius, the tanks are well insulated,” explains Vogels.
“After being regasified, LNG is distributed directly into the gas pipeline network from the tanks; or, while still in liquid form, is transferred to tanker vessels or trucks for further transport by sea and land; or is loaded onto bunker vessels for the refuelling of ships.”
In addition to storage tanks, the terminal area includes a processing area for LNG regasification, and two LNG unloading and loading jetties.
“We are building a third jetty for smaller vessels, to respond to the ever-growing needs of LNG distribution and feeder traffic. In other respects, we can scale our operations in line with market growth – for example, if necessary we will have a fourth tank or loading and unloading jetty built,” comments Guus Vogels.
A future alternative
LNG is still little used as a shipping fuel, despite having been on the cards for a long time. However, Guus Vogels sees liquefied natural gas growing to rival other options in the near future.
“Its environmental friendliness is an indisputable advantage. Another reason is price, since fuel accounts for a large share of the costs of merchant shipping companies. Many players are waiting to see how LNG prices develop in relation to other fuels. Several companies are preparing to shift to LNG and some, with Containerships at the forefront, are already making the move.”
The Gate Terminal is also preparing for the future and the ever-growing use of LNG fuel.
One of our future tasks involves bringing LNG end users , and/or fuel distributors and our LNG capacity holders together. We try to look as far as possible into the future and are prepared to respond to growth. We are ready to expand in step with the market,” says Vogels.