Innovation in Technology for the LNG industry


What are the benefits for yourself and your organisation in participating in IQPC’s LNG Bunkering forum?

It’s possibly the fourth or fifth time I've been to this forum. It’s been a journey that we’ve been on together, shall we say. So, for me, really, it’s an opportunity to meet some old friends and new players to have a discussion around something that we’re all passionate about, which is the use of LNG as fuel. 

In particular, I think, it’s allowed us to share experiences, learn from others, and, yes, it’s probably one of the better LNG Bunkering Forum that exists today. 

What are you hoping to gain from this summit?

Apart from lots of meetings, I think, really, it’s just to understand what’s... If there's anything new. I’d be very surprised to hear something new. I think what we can see with the level of interest, with the number of people that are attending, is that, clearly, there's much more activity in this space than there has been in previous years. 

What’s changed in the industry in the past year?

Aside from the fact that we’ve delivered our first fully fuelled LNG-powered vessel, which is now, as we speak, today, is bunkering in Tenerife.

I think what we’ve seen now is that we’ve got a lot more activity; we’re seeing more bunker vessels on order; we’re seeing more ships being ordered. Still not as many as we would have thought. When I first entered into this space four or five years’ ago, I would have thought there would be more activity by now. But, that being said, we’ve seen a significant upturn. 

I think through 2018, we saw more ships being ordered. In my sector, the cruise sector, the vast majority of new builds that are being ordered are LNG fuelled, LNG powered. And so, we’re seeing a huge amount of involvement and investment in this space. 

I think we’re now beginning to see bunkering availability in more locations. We’ve managed to push bunkering out to the Canary Islands and locations like that. And going into 2020, I think we’re ready for most it, and it’s now a question of just continuing that expansion.

What will impact future growth in adopting LNG as a widespread fuel?

So, clearly, I think we’ve seen 2020 is the next big thing for this industry. A lot of discussion of the panel today about that. And companies like ours, where we’ve already made our investment decisions, whether it’s through the use of LNG for a number of our new builds; whether it’s for other new builds, which will use conventional fuels, together with advanced air-quality systems, otherwise known as scrubbers. 

Or there are other alternatives, use of compliant fuel, for example, that clearly puts pressure on the marketplace to move in certain directions. And LNG, now, with its wider availability, good pricing points, etc., is going to help to ensure it’s utilised more, I would think. 

I think we’ve also seen a number of major players entering that space. We’ve seen the announcements by CMA CGM moving things along, and I’d like to think that we’re going to see more in this space in the near future. 

How do you see alternative fuels evolving in the shipping sector?

What we’re seeing is a number of locations that are already moving in that space, like Norway, Scandinavian countries; European Union putting a lot of pressure on shipping companies, or shipping institutions, to move in a decarbonisation path. The IMO has set very aggressive and aspirational goals, which we believe are achievable, but we’ll need to see these new fuels coming into force in the near future. 

Therefore, this we need to invest, both in research and development and in the development of the distribution networks to support that. 

Hybrid designs will be a part of that, whether it’s part electric, part hydrogen, ammonia, bio-LNG, a number. There are a number of different pathways. 

And I think that's where the challenge lies, is the understanding what those pathways are and how best to position yourself. 

How do you think innovation in technology will support LNG progress and accelerate the use of LNG as a marine fuel?

Innovation is essential to this process, whether it’s in the LNG supply chain and in the development of more small-scale supply points, particularly around LNG. Whether it’s innovation in new technology on board vessels, this will allow for more efficient use of the existing plant. Better reduction in methane slip, improvements in design, both on the basis of a planned – what’s the word I'm looking for – process by which you've got continuous improvement, or whether there's brand-new technology coming on board. 

We believe that there will be more opportunities in the future to bring in carbon-neutral LNG into the supply chain. I can't tell you when that's going to happen, but that will be part of that pathway. 

And so, clearly, we see LNG has a role to play. It’s not a short-term transition; it’s a longer-term transition fuel within this space. Potentially, it could even be a solution, at the end of the day, if we get to a fully synthetic carbon-neutral LNG. I don't know when that will happen. I don't know what the answers are. If I did, I wouldn't be doing this job, I’d be doing something far more interesting or far more rewarding. 

But it’s really important, I think, for us to continue to invest in technology, invest in research and development, and find ways to continuously improve. 

What changes do you foresee in the industry over the next year?

I think we’re just going to see more coming online. We’re seeing a number of new ships being developed; we’re seeing at least two or three more bunker vessels coming into the marketplace, so the availability is more widespread. We’ll start off our operation in Barcelona. We’ll see others starting operation in the Baltics. So, clearly, it’s a question of scale and capacity coming online. 

I think a number of ship operators will be looking at their investment choices going forward. I'm not talking about the cruise segment, because most of that’s already booked, capacity is booked well out. 

But in other sectors, I think people have got to make decisions as to where they're going to put their money. 

And I would like to think that a number of those people are going to look at LNG and see that that's the right solution for them. 

Certainly, through our membership of CLNG and SGMF, we believe that there's clarity around the investment case, around the rules, the regulations, and so, really, it’s now a question of trying to see how many more players are going to step into this space. 

How do we ensure certain regions don't get left behind?

Well, I think we heard, today, within the forum, the vast majority of the main bunker ports in the world, either have the capacity today or will very soon have the capacity and capability to deliver LNG. 

We’re seeing more and more other locations that can do that. 

I think by working together with partners, by forming long-term strategic partnerships, by having relationships within the industry, you can, generally, get LNG wherever you need it to be. 

Now, there are challenges associated with that, and not least of which is the time it takes to get that up and running and the approval process that you have to go through. I've seen in the last 12 months, quite a big change. 

Whereas, before, people were much more negative to the idea. I think many more ports and institutions are ready to accept the process that they have to go through, take their responsibility as well, and want to work together with suppliers and operators like us, to come up with solutions.

So that's the good news. Will we see it everywhere? Difficult to say. But, certainly, what we’ve found is that even in some of the more remote locations that we don't operate in on a year-round basis, we can find solutions and those solutions work. 

So, I think... So, I'm optimistic that we’ll find ways to do it. Really, we’re seeing, as we said, more and more players entering the marketplace. So, yes, I think the future is bright. 

Don't want to miss the chance to join the premier meeting ground for the LNG community? Download the full agenda here to discover who will be speaking at the upcoming LNG Bunkering Summit: Meditteranean taking place this year in Barcelona, 15 - 16 October 2019.

Return to Blog