Design of regasification terminals is the most important part of a project as it will define the future use and flexibility of the facility in terms of the capacity of vessels that can be accommodated and future activities such as re-exporting, truck-loading or being a regional supply hub.
A multitude of factors, including a terminal’s size and location, can also influence its berthing capacity.
The International Gas Union has published guidelines on the importance of issues such as storage and berthing capacities to accommodate larger vessels as well as small-scale carriers.
Typically, the smaller regasification terminals only have the capacity to berth conventional ships of around 160,000 cubic metres in capacity.
As import terminals have expanded their storage so they have also added ship berthing capacities to accommodate Qatari tankers of 210,000 cubic metres capacity right up to 266,00 cubic metres capacity.
“In the most recent count 43 out of 126 existing regasification terminals, located in 17 different markets, were known to have the berthing capacity to receive a Q-Max Vessel,” said the IGU.
“Of these 43 terminals, 25 were in the Asia or Asia-Pacific regions, while the Middle East only has one such terminal, and Latin America and Africa have none,” it added.
Q-Flex vessels have a capacity around 217,000 cubic metres and a further 31 regasification terminals had berthing capacities to receive Q-Flex carriers, as well as conventional LNG vessels.
“Out of 36 total import markets, 24 were confirmed to have a minimum of one terminal with receiving capacity for Q-Class vessels. Of the 52 terminals that are estimated to be limited to receive conventional vessels, 16 are FSRUs,” stated the IGU report.
Many terminals also have to adjust to accommodate small-scale LNG tankers and bunkering vessels to supply low-emission fuel for ships and to capture new commercial opportunities.
“Several terminals with multiple jetties such as GATE Rotterdam (see photo) and Barcelona can receive a wide variety of vessels sizes, ranging from Q-Max vessels all the way down to small-scale ships, some as low as 500 cubic metres capacity,” stated the report.
Terminals with multiple jetties additionally have the ability to complete trans-shipments and deliver bunkering services, such as the Montoir-de-Bretagne terminal on the Atlantic Coast of France.
“Multiple terminals in Europe such as GATE, Barcelona, and Cartagena have been offering this functionality for ships as small as 500 cubic metres capacity,” the IGU noted.
“Though volumes currently remain small, the transportation and industrial sector is expected to provide growth in the LNG market over the long term. Multiple receiving facilities have developed bunkering and truck-loading capabilities.,” it added.
France’s Fos Cavaou terminal near Marseilles added LNG bunkering services in 2019 and Poland has also been building on to its Swinoujscie terminal in the Baltic to allow for bunkering and trans-shipments.
“In addition, small-scale consumption has increased, reaching isolated demand pockets outside of the primary pipeline infrastructure,” said the report.
“Spain has demonstrated the use of intermodal LNG International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) container transport through truck, train, and ship,” it added.
As more LNG importing markets have the capability to re-export imported LNG cargoes to destinations elsewhere in the LNG market, this aspect of trading has grown.
“These are generally markets with access to alternative pipeline supply that take advantage of arbitrage opportunities through LNG trade between basins as well as specific logistical factors within certain markets,” said the IGU.
France has become adept at re-exporting cargoes and before the market challenges occurred it had shipped as much as 1.4 million tonnes per annum, or more than 20 cargoes, for three consecutive years.
The French utilized the Montoir, Fos Cavaou, and the Dunkirk terminals. After France, the Netherlands Gate terminal and the Belgian Zeebrugge facility have become big re-exporters.
There are 15 terminals in Europe (out of 26 existing terminals) that are capable of re-exports.
Lithuania began re-exports within the region in 2017, although these volumes are small-scale in nature.
However, the share of non-European re-exports in the global LNG market has risen in recent years, reaching 27 percent of total re-exports.
Indeed, Singapore produced the third most reloaded cargoes and was essentially on par with the Netherlands, reaching 0.7 MTPA - the most for a non-European market.
As the global market’s multiple challenges ease in the months ahead, LNG traders may look forward with some optimism to the new Northern Hemisphere winter season, just over six months away, and re-export deals will be the first tests of the health of the market and its liquidity.