18 May 2020 - ConferenzaGNL


by Diego Gavagnin

After years of announced availability on the official sites, in early May in Marseille there was the first supply of LNG direct from tank ship to user ship (READ MORE here). Everything went smoothly under the grim control of a team of maritime firefighters and officials of the harbor master.

Situations already seen, even in Italy, and for much simpler operations. Truck to ship: supplies to ports and shipyards of boats, especially ferries, with tank truck, well planted on land, to ships, well docked at the pier. Four operations have already been carried out by us, the first in these days, in May 2014 in Civitavecchia, six years ago, promoted by ConferenzaGNL.

Thousands of similar operations made in other European countries, including in France. Detailed international and European regulations available. We are still prohibited from supplying a ship that requires a few hundred m3 of LNG with a tank truck.

In the Strait of Messina, a very modern LNG ferry has been asking for refueling for nineteen months. He can not. It must use petroleum, authorized in spite of itself to emit fine dust, sulfur and much more nitrogen and CO2.

Meanwhile, more than one hundred tank trucks, the same used for ships, fill up every two or three days in large regasifiers and unload LNG into over 100 tanks at Italian service stations and industries. All tanks similar to those of ships.

More than 2,500 trucks, even in self-service, and industrial plants collect and consume LNG every day from the tanks. Technologies are the same. The first of these tanks, in the province of Cuneo, turns ten next August. Never any problem.

You cannot even imagine how long it will take to do in Italy what was done ten days ago in Marseille. Normal activity for more than two years in Spain and since 2014 in northern European ports. The operations of this type already made are not counted, even without docking at the pier. No accidents.

But even if we could use small tankers to refuel the ever-increasing large LNG ships in our ports (a few thousand m3, the truck to ship would take too long), where could they refuel? In Genoa it is not possible, it has been talked about since 2014 but it has not yet been possible to find the site where to build a small scale LNG depot.

In Livorno either, it has been talked about since 2015, but even there you cannot decide. Nothing also in Savona, La Spezia and Civitavecchia. What then, even if he suddenly decides, how many years will it take to have the authorizations? No less than two, probably three.

These are the times despite the historic commitment of the Ministry of Economic Development, which must grant final permission in a single procedure, but involving more than ten other administrations. And how many for construction? If it goes well, and there are no appeals, at least two more.

Meanwhile, the depot of Santa Giusta-Oristano, in Sardinia, is about to be completed, but who will supply it so that it can supply the tankers that will supply the ships?

Hope is the supply of small tankers from the OLT floating regasification terminal, off the coast of Livorno. The authorization procedure started in 2018 and is in progress. Then it will take a year for technical adjustments.

In recent days, OLT has published the environmental report, certifying that the activity of the plant, which works at its maximum capacity, did not cause significant impacts on the environment and did not have any safety problems last year either.

The plant receives dozens of LNG carriers with a capacity of 180,000 m3 each year. The size of the ship tanks that it will be able to supply will be 7,500 m3.

On OLT we are optimistic, but in the meantime? Marseille. It is no coincidence that the first ship-to-ship load has now been made. Total is delivering a ship tank that will be based here. It will fill up in the Marseille regasifiers and will supply the twenty LNG container ships, which will also call at Marseille, of the French shipowner CMA CGM.

Between one container ship and the other, Total’s tanker ship will certainly find a way to arrive in Liguria, Sardinia, and Tuscany. Can’t ship to ship be done by us? Our ships will go to Marseille to refuel.

We count the days to reopen industries and businesses and we resign ourselves to living with the virus, aware that investments in infrastructure are the first response to overcome the economic crisis; experts say it will cause multiple victims of the same epidemic.

Another virus seems to make us more afraid.

In the photo the first truck to ship in Civitavecchia, May 2014.

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