Titan LNG looks beyond LNG barging capacity expansion

Titan LNG organised the LNG bunkering of 3,300 tonnes for the dual-fuel SSCV, <i>Sleipnir</i>. (Image: Titan LNG) Titan LNG organised the LNG bunkering of 3,300 tonnes for the dual-fuel SSCV, Sleipnir. (Image: Titan LNG)

As the expansion of LNG bunkering infrastructure across northern Europe accelerates, attention is turning to expanding supply at smaller ports. Titan LNG's Commercial Director Michael Schaap offers his perspective, having recently received an EUR11m grant to expand its network of bunker barges to cover Lubeck and Zeebrugge.

Nothing sums up the shift in attitudes towards LNG better than the successful introduction of LNG engines aboard highly complex vessels, such as Heerema's semi-submersible crane vessel, Sleipnir.

Titan LNG Commercial Director Michael Schaap told The Motorship that when Argonon bunkered Sleipnir earlier in 2020, Titan LNG organised the LNG bunkering of 3,300 tonnes for the dual-fuel SSCV. The construction of Deen Shipping's dual-fuel bunker vessel had been a ground-breaking project a decade ago.

Looking forward, the focus is on how LNG can contribute to meeting the EU’s plans to decarbonise shipping. While bunkering statistics from the Port of Rotterdam show that demand for LNG bunkering is continuing to develop, one of the barriers to wider expansion has been availability in smaller ports. [Doeksen’s managing director Paul Melles told The Motorship the granting of LNG permits for bunkering in Harlingen was a key step in its recent Willem Barentsz pure-gas ferry project].

Titan LNG Commercial Director Michael Schaap observes that legislation for LNG is almost in place: “The rules are introduced and are clear. The basic infrastructure is available as well. However, it is time to develop all this even further for somewhat smaller ports. When that has happened, shipowners will be even more convinced that LNG is for today’s use and the future. Looking further ahead, we can lower the environmental footprint by blending bio or synthetic LNG with conventional LNG.”

Titan LNG has a close interest in this: it is providing truck-to-ship bunkering at Harlingen for example. It has also been granted €11million from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to expand its LNG bunker barge network. The project builds on the operational advantages offered by Titan LNG’s first barge, FlexFueler001 (length 76.4 metres, beam 11.45 metres) which entered service in Titan LNG’s barging fleet in 2019. It was built by Kooiman in Zwijndrecht, near Rotterdam. The same shipyard is busy building its sister ship, which will be delivered later this year, and is earmarked for service in Antwerp.

The first FlexFueler has already demonstrated its operational advantages, lowering turnaround times for vessels that were previously dependent upon truck-to-ship bunkering. That is why Titan LNG has planned to order the FlexFueler003 to service the port of Zeebrugge. The FlexFueler 004 is destined for Lübeck. Schaap noted that Titan LNG was considering different options with regard to the shipyard that will get the order to build the third and fourth bunker barges.

In addition, the company was working on a larger bunker barge project. The Titan Hyperion (length 135 metres, 8,000cbm LNG onboard) is part of the Bio2Bunker project that can be funded from the CEF budget. It is to be a mother ship for the ARA (Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp) region. Titan LNG could not confirm further specification details about the barge or the shipyard before the newbuild contract was signed.

Looking further ahead, Schaap was categorical about the need to establish Bio or synthetic LNG in the supply chain. While LNG is the only proven scalable alternative to HSFO with scrubbers or VLSFO at the moment, LNG combined with BLNG and later Synthetic Liquefied Gas (SNG), offers a credible and cost-competitive path to decarbonisation after 2030, Schaap concluded.

The first necessary step to “future proof” the LNG powered fleet is to ensure bunker facilities are available. “This will happen firstly as a blend of Bio with regular LNG. It is expected that the Bio percentage will gradually increase. That will happen when Bio LNG will become more attractively priced and when the user’s demand for reducing the CO2 emission increases and the fuel will become more cost-effective.”

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