Floating Terminal Boosts LNG Bunkering in Italy

FSRU toscana
FSRU Toscana (file image courtesy OLT)

Published Oct 25, 2020 11:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Italian authorities have given the green light for an LNG receiving vessel moored off Tuscany to begin ship-to-ship transfers to smaller LNG vessels, including purpose-built bunkering vessels and barges. The development will make it easier for LNG bunkering operations to expand in the Central Mediterranean, without requiring the construction of new shoreside LNG receiving terminals. 

The floating storage and regasification unit FSRU Toscana has been moored off the Tuscan coastline since 2018, where she has served as a receiving station for LNG shipments from abroad - particularly from the United States. LNG carriers offload their cargoes into her tanks via ship-to-ship transfer, and then her regasification plant turns the liquefied fuel back into utility-grade natural gas. 

Last week, the Italian government and the regional government of Tuscany gave approval for FSRU Toscana to start transferring some of her liquefied fuel directly to smaller LNG carriers, including LNG bunkering vessels. According to the Toscana's operator, OLT, the number of operating LNG bunkering barges in Europe is expected to expand from six vessels last year to 21 vessels by the end of 2021. The demand for the fuel is expected to rise as well, thanks to major shipowners like UECC and CMA CGM committing to the construction of dual-fuel LNG vessels. 

FSRU Toscana's service for small-scale LNG carriers will also enable the distribution of LNG as a transportation fuel for trucks, port equipment and other uses, the company said. Northern Europe has taken the lead in developing infrastructure and markets for LNG as a transport fuel, and deploying an FSRU for loading small LNG carriers is a rapid way to introduce a commercial-scale supply to a new region. 

"Italy is located exactly in the centre of the Mediterranean, and with the opportunity to play a key role in the spread of LNG in favor of the energy transition. Thanks to this project, our country will also be able to make use of a more sustainable energy source than traditional fuels, in line with the best practices already widespread in Europe," said Maurizio Zangrandi, co-CEO of OLT. "In fact, in the short term, we will no longer have to depend on LNG supplies from France, Spain and Belgium, with significant industrial benefits for the Italian naval sector."