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Editorial comment

It’s a dangerous world we live in, and the LNG industry is unfortunately not exempt. Talk about unlucky, for the 178th time in its 13-year existence, Equinor’s LNG plant on the coast of the Norwegian Barents Sea has suffered another incident. On this occasion, the plant has been shut down following a dramatic fire in an oil-powered turbine at the facility. The Hammerfest LNG plant is found on Melkøya Island, deep within the Arctic Circle, and thus exposed to a harsh environment and intense climatic conditions. It is no wonder, therefore, that the plant has experienced gas and oil leakages, numerous fires, and hefty emissions releases over the years. Fortunately, this most recent incident reported zero injuries, but it is a reminder of the daily dangers faced in the industry.

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Elsewhere, focus has been placed on improving safety when handling LNG-powered vessels at port terminals. The latest guidelines supplied by the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) are in line with the IAPH’s policy of equipping port authorities with the crucial instruments needed to maintain safety during ship-to-ship bunkering at their ports. Many ports are receiving an increase in the number of visits from LNG-powered vessels and ships that have been converted to LNG, thus there is a demand for some precise guidelines.

Aspirations exist for LNG to play a driving role in meeting the world’s need for low-carbon, low-cost energy, and the news is frequently littered with announcements of LNG-powered vessels taking to the seas for the first time, and many of them are historic achievements.

Last week in France, CMA CGM Group welcomed the CMA CGM JACQUES SAADE to its fleet, which is now the largest LNG-powered container ship in the world. Meanwhile over in Norway, new trams for the city will be delivered using UECC’s dual-fuel LNG PCTC vessels, before LNG battery-hybrid ships are added to the fleet in 2021.

The actions taken and new measures introduced in the aftermath of the Hammerfest LNG fire will be highly scrutinised throughout the industry, as bad media is unwanted, particularly when LNG companies are striving to increase their operations to take advantage of the decarbonising world, hence they need to look attractive.

There is already some concern for LNG in the longer term, given that new technologies such as green hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), may cause demand growth for LNG to peter out.1 In addition, the high emissions created from the LNG industry (a variety of gases must be removed prior to liquefaction, and consequently end up in the atmosphere) may also act as a deterrent going forwards.

Companies are aware of this issue, with Siemens Energy recently contracted to improve the sustainability of Nigeria LNG’s Bonny Island plant – providing a new cryogenic boil-off compression train which will assist in the reduction of greenhouse gases from the plant.

As recently discussed by consultancy Wood Mackenzie, LNG needs to increase its attractiveness to developers and buyers, or risk falling to the wayside as newer, greener technologies become the centre of attention. The issue of unwanted emissions to the atmosphere needs to be high on the agenda when projects are being designed and developed. With Pieridae Energy Limited just this week signing a services agreement with Bechtel to review and plan the design of the Goldboro LNG facility, fingers crossed for some carbon footprint conscious decisions.

  1. Wood Mackenzie, ‘New LNG projects – all dressed up and no place to go’. 25 September 2020.