LNG bunkering

Fossil fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, currently provide most of the energy for the commercial transportation sector, and the combustion of these fuels release emissions that cause climate change and affect air quality—important issues for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, our local communities, and for Canada.

What is liquefied natural gas?

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been chilled to a temperature of roughly -162° C (-259.6° F) at atmospheric pressure, at which point it becomes a clear, colourless, and odourless liquid that is non-corrosive and non-toxic.

Over the next decade, natural gas as a marine fuel in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is expected to be adopted by shipping lines across several sectors—container, cruise, auto carriers, and regional tankers—that call on the Port of Vancouver.

To support this transition, ship-to-ship refueling (also known as bunkering) of LNG will be a service needed at the Port of Vancouver. We are currently working to safely accommodate ship-to-ship bunkering operations by:

  • Understanding the risks, costs, and benefits associated with this type of marine fuel
  • Reviewing the fuel’s economIic viability in British Columbia
  • Engaging key industry and government stakeholders for support

Operational safety

When it comes to bunkering at the Port of Vancouver, we must ensure that the right operational and environmental safety measures are in place.

Our current practices for bunkering diesel fuel are outlined in our Port Information Guide. In preparing to offer LNG bunkering services at the port, we are taking a number of actions to inform our updated procedures:

  • Preliminary risk assessments to understand any potential impacts to the port, bringing together key stakeholders and creating a framework for an open and transparent conversation
  • Adapted bunkering checklists for LNG fuel created in collaboration with the International Associations of Ports and Harbours and its Clean Marine Fuels technical workgroup
  • Compatibility assessments between fuel suppliers and vessels prior to beginning any bunkering activity
  • Industry guidelines under the Society for Gas as Marine Fuel (SGMF) as a framework for additional safety measures

Economic viability

International marine operators are moving towards using cleaner fuels. Several studies are helping us understand the right economic conditions needed and what we can do to make the transition easier. For example, SEA-LNG, a multi-sector industry coalition whose members work together to showcase the benefits of LNG as a marine fuel, commissioned several economic performance studies over the last two years to explore the capital and operating aspects of LNG-fueled vessels, using various vessel configurations and international trade routes. The port authority commissioned tailored studies using the same method, specifically looking at vessels that currently use the port, including a 14,000-TEU container vessel, an auto carrier, and an Aframax tanker.

Technical studies

In order to achieve a greenhouse gas (GHG) benefit from using LNG as a primary fuel source, the complete fueling process—extraction, supply, delivery, and combustion on board—must emit less air pollution than traditional marine fuel oils (i.e., diesel). This type of comparison is known as a lifecycle analysis through a well-to-wake approach. In 2021, SEA-LNG and SGMF studied the GHG reductions from using LNG and found there to be modest GHG benefits over the entire lifecycle of a well-to-wake approach.

 

That study also looked at global sources of natural gas and applied Canadian specific metrics for the reported results. In collaboration with FortisBC, we extended this study to identify specific criteria needed for fueling vessels at the FortisBC’s new ship-to-ship LNG marine fueling facility on Tilbury Island, located along the south arm of the Fraser River in Delta, British Columbia.
Through the study, we learned that:

  • The Tilbury Island facility does not require an LNG carrier transport—that is, a ship designed to transport LNG in its chilled tanks—which will reduce GHG emissions by roughly 13% and improve the maximum life cycle of LNG by 5% compared to the global average
  • BC Hydro’s electrical power will reduce GHG emissions by roughly one-third of typical liquefaction plants
  • The production of LNG under CleanBC 2030’s policies will reduce GHG emissions by roughly 30%

Stakeholder engagement

The port authority is working with industry stakeholders to ensure that LNG bunkering services are sufficient and will meet demand for the type and number of LNG-fueled ships that may call the port by 2030.

An assessment of LNG bunker demand to 2030 by Fearnley LNG Advisors
An assessment of LNG bunker demand to 2030 by Fearnley LNG Advisors

Our risk assessment workshops are providing an opportunity to connect with terminals, service providers, emergency and first responders, and vessel operators and owners to build a clear understanding of the need for and constraints of LNG bunkering within our jurisdiction.

In addition to these stakeholders, we are working closely with FortisBC, industry coalitions, and technical groups.

                     

Government support

Cooperation and action are required from government to advance the policies and investments needed to transition to a low-carbon transportation sector.

Both the provincial and federal governments are supporting the work on LNG as a marine fuel:

December 13, 2019 – Federal Ministry of Transport mandate letter
October 2019 – Province of B.C. supports proposal for LNG ship-refueling facility