Plans for Jones Act LNG Bunker Barge to Operate from Tacoma

LNG bunkering for Pacific Northwest
New LNG terminal facility due to open in 2021 in Tacoma (Puget)

Published May 4, 2021 7:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

As efforts continue to build out the LNG infrastructure for the maritime industry, a new agreement seeks to build the bunkering capacity in the U.S.’s Pacific Northwest. A new terminal will provide shoreside loading access for a bunker barge and the plan calls for the introduction of a Jones Act compliant barge by 2023. 

Puget LNG and GAC Bunker Fuels Limited signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in the supply and sale of LNG marine fuel from the new LNG terminal to marine customers in the Pacific Northwest. When Puget’s Tacoma LNG Terminal becomes operational in the second quarter of 2021, it will be the first terminal on North America’s west coast providing direct shoreside loading access for a bunker barge.

The companies highlighted the growing order book for LNG-fueled vessels saying that it underlined the need to develop the LNG supply infrastructure in all major shipping ports and regions, including the Pacific Northwest. A study conducted by DNV for Puget LNG on the feasibility of a bunker barge to supply LNG as fuel to ships in the Puget Sound area concluded that the availability and cost of natural gas, especially in North America, has made the use of LNG an attractive solution for ship operators. 

Under the new agreement, GAC Bunker Fuels, a division of the Dubai-based GAC Group, will issue a Request for Proposal for a Jones Act-compliant LNG bunker barge to be constructed, owned, and operated by a third party. The concept calls for a barge that will have the flexibility in size and design to serve multiple shipping customers. The vessel is expected to be operational in 2023 and loading from Puget LNG’s terminal in Tacoma, the barge will be able to bunker vessels in port. 

“This exciting foray into the Pacific Northwest with Puget LNG is the latest expansion of our footprint in the U.S., adding to GAC’s growing LNG fuel portfolio,” said Nicholas Browne, GAC Bunker Fuels’ Global Director. 

The Tacoma natural gas facility has been the focus of intense protests by the local community and environmental groups. The liquefaction plant was approved in 2019, but environmental groups joined by a tribe of Native Americans from the region have been calling for the plant’s environmental permits to be overturned. Their case is currently in front of Washington state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board with the environmentalists arguing that the requirements of the state’s Environmental Policy Act were not met in this case. Puget Sound Energy and lawyers for the Clean Air Agency argue that the plant went through multiple reviews at the federal, state, and local level and met all the requirements. The Pollution Control Board could order a further review of the environmental analysis and permits.

The planned introduction of LNG bunkering in the Tacoma area is part of a broader effort by GAC to develop the LNG infrastructure in the United States. Last year, GAC Bunker Fuels provided brokerage and ship agency services to Fure Ven, the first non-U.S. flagged vessel to receive LNG in a U.S. port. The 18,000 dwt product/chemical tanker, owned by Furetank of Sweden, bunkered at the port of Jacksonville, Florida.

GAC Bunker Fuels has also entered into a Heads of Agreement with Houston-based Pilot LNG for LNG marine fuel to be delivered from a ship for customers in the ports of Houston, Texas City, Galveston, and Galveston Offshore Lightering Area.