Fuelling powerful alternatives
New legal stipulations are forcing the transport industry to find new fuels, especially in the maritime shipping industry and the road haulage sector. Europe’s largest port invited the media to its compound recently to present its LNG infrastructure, which is creating new opportunities for transporters and logisticians as well as for energy enterprises and petrol station operators.
The International Maritime Organization’s limit of 0.5% for the sulphur content of maritime fuel will be binding worldwide from 1 January 2020 onwards. This measure will further intensify the search for suitable alternative fuels.
Whilst MSC, as one example, is set to rely primarily on scrubber technologies, Maersk Oil Trading and Koole Terminals recently agreed to produce a fuel with a sulphur content of 0.1%. The production, which will be carried out at Koole’s Botlek site in Rotterdam, is expected to cover around 5 – 10% of Maersk’s annual fuel requirements. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of alternative forms of energy. Rotterdam recently presented its on-site LNG infrastructure.
Getting started early
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) represents a real opportunity for many players. The port of Rotterdam’s Maud Eijgendaal pointed out recently that powering ships with LNG “eliminates 95% of all particulate matter and sulphur oxide emissions, and 90% of nitrogen oxide emissions. CO2 emissions, in turn, are cut by 20%. That’s part of the reason why we’re hitting an all-time high in Rotterdam, with seven different LNG transport ships in service in 2019.”
The logistics for LNG in Rotterdam are provided by Gate Terminal – multimodally, that is for ships and trucks. Gate Terminal was slightly ahead of its time when it was established in 2011; its capacity utilisation remained below expectations until 2017, as managing director Wim Groenendijk readily admits. Last year, however, 104 ships and 2,808 trucks used the terminal.
“In 2019 we’ve handled 5 billion cbm of LNG,” Groenendijk emphasises. “It won’t be long before our total annual capacity of 12 billion cbm is fully utilised.” The company is already busy adapting to changing market behaviour by its customers. In addition to two large berths one smaller one is now also in use, which enables the service provider to handle LNG vessels with medium and small capacities of up to 20,000 cbm efficiently too. Groenendijk does not conceal the fact that business remains at the whim of external factors. While the market for transhipment was fuelled by different price levels in Asia and Europe in 2017, the ratio has become far more balanced in 2018.
An ever more international network
The popularity of LNG-powered trucks is also rising steadily. Jolo van der Schuit, CEO of Rolande, which provides haulage companies with LNG and liquefied biogas (LBG), says that the LNG terminal in Rotterdam is absolutely indispensable for his own business activities, as his firm uses the terminal “on a daily basis.”
The hub is a very important link in the chain of Rolande’s network, which is currently made up of 13 LNG stations in the Netherlands. Van der Schuit has ascertained many reasons for the international expansion of LNG activities, including state incentives, such as the exemption of LNG-powered trucks from tolls on Germany’s roads. “In 2020 we’re set to add six to seven sites to our international network, which already covers three foreign locations in Belgium and Germany today.”
The material for networks such as Rolande’s is provided by traditional energy suppliers such as Shell – which sees great growth opportunities in the maritime sector. Shell’s international business development manager Arjan Stavast expects the global fleet of LNG-operated ships, which stood at more than 525 units at the end of 2018, to further grow considerably in the near future.