LNG fuel in northern Europe

Main drivers for developing LNG infrastructures in Europe.

Looking at Europe, three main geographic regions can be identified. The northern region is the European ECA. In the central region, natural gas (NG) is traditionally supplied by pipelines to private households and industrial users. The southernmost area is the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern part of the North Atlantic.

Since January 2015, the sulphur content in fuel of ships has been limited to 0.1%, in the northern area. This is the main consideration driving adoption of LNG as a fuel here. In the central region, there is a lot of activity related to the establishment of a common legal framework and harmonisation of risk assessments for LNG storage. In Central Europe, reduction of NOx in the exhaust gas of inland waterway vessels is a primary driver considering the option of using LNG as fuel. Another driver is bottlenecks in the European gas grid. 

In southwestern Europe, LNG is an established energy carrier and is available at multiple import terminals. The hinterland is used to distribute LNG by tanker trucks. The main driver for southern Europe to investigate LNG bunkering is their potential position to sell services to vessels that pass through the Mediterranean on the Europe-Asia trade routes. 

There are typically six cornerstones for all initiatives aimed at introducing a small-scale LNG value chain. To help facilitate the development of small-scale LNG infrastructure, DNV GL developed a Recommended Practice (RP) for LNG bunkering. This helps fill the regulatory gap between legislation/standards and local operational LNG bunkering procedures, which, in some areas, may not even exist yet. Reliable and safe concepts, established legislation, the regulatory framework and the necessary competences, knowledge and skills are the main requirements for developing a LNG bunkering infrastructure. Provided LNG is available, access to capital is given and the public is informed.

To summarise, the key drivers in the three identified part of Europe are:

  1. Compliance with shipping regulations in northern Europe.
  2. Potential bottlenecks and emission requirements in Central Europe.
  3. Availability of LNG in southern Europe.

The critical enablers are the same in all three of the European regions. They are listed in alphabetical order, as their relative ranking may vary from region to region. 

  1. Availability of LNG to the end consumer. Having an import terminal does not mean that LNG bunker barges can be filled. 
  2. Established legislation and regulatory framework. Land-side regulation and shipping regulation have to interface well. Gaps in the regulation need to be closed and overregulation needs to be reduced. 
  3. Favourable investment climate and taxation. Infrastructure development has a cost and long payback times. Investors need security that the investment is not lost. 
  4. Necessary competence, knowledge and skills. Decision makers in governments, authorities and companies need to understand the subject of their decision-making and the consequences of the decisions they make. On the other hand, workers need to be trained for safe operation. 
  5. Public acceptance. LNG is not well known across all of Europe. The general public must be informed about LNG and its benefits, as well as the associated risks and how they are dealt with. 
  6. Reliable and safe logistical concepts. To serve as a fuel on regular shipping or transport connections, LNG must be present where it is needed and when it is needed in the volumes required.