Lessons from Genoa

25 Nov 2020 - ConferenzaGNL

Lessons from Genoa

by Diego Gavagnin

As our readers know, as they have massively participated, ConferenzaGNL organised the International Forum “LNG in the Euro-Mediterranean Corridor and the role of the logistic system of Genoa and Liguria” on 19 and 20 November on behalf of the Metropolitan City of Geniva and the Liguria Region. Strictly online.

Considering the follow-up, the positive feedback received, and the novelties that emerged, it was a successful event, which required a great commitment for the orderly participation of 62 speakers, 14 of whom from abroad, simultaneous translation into French and English, in the disastrous context of Italian internet connections.

Here the closing remarks made by Prof. Sergio Garribba, Chairman of the ConferenzaGNL Scientific Committee, which will be soon available as part of the Forum proceedings, such as the full recording of the event (in the meantime here you can review the 5 video interviews, with concrete cases, made for the occasion, the slide presentations and the press review).

More specifically, we wonder whether the Forum has achieved its mandate to illustrate, through the voice of the protagonists, the “state of the art” of the direct use of LNG worldwide and with reference to the potential role of the “Liguria system”.

I think it is even more interesting to understand whether what has emerged will be useful for the objectives underlying the mandate of the Administrations, which we believe is to arrive at a decision on whether, and if so which, small-scale LNG infrastructures to build in Genoa and/or in the Region.

The state of the art is now clear. The shift of the largest and most modern ships to LNG, starting with the tankers themselves, is now a reality, as is the supply that is rapidly spreading globally. This has been demonstrated by the slides and intervention of Shell, the world’s leading supplier of LNG bunkers, and those of Avenir, the first integrated company to develop 360-degree projects, onshore infrastructure, construction of its own tankers, and LNG refuelling.

The time has come for competition between LNG suppliers for cruise ships in the Caribbean between those based in Port Canaveral, Florida, and those based in Cartagena, Colombia. Northern Europe consolidates, Singapore increases investment, while Malaysia and Japan arrive, while Australia equips itself.

It will soon be possible to refuel on all the main world sea routes. Many have stressed the integration between sea and land transport with LNG, the same fuel for the most diverse means and needs.

The prospect of LNG switching from fossil to renewable, first with the use of bio LNG, then with the introduction of hydromethane, a synthetic gas produced with green hydrogen and CO2, which is thus removed from the environment for a neutral if not negative climate impact.

Hydromethane is preferred to pure hydrogen, because at the same production costs it allows to use the same infrastructures as fossil LNG, extending their life for decades. ConferenzaGNL’s observation in last July’s webinars of how small-scale LNG is a precursor of hydrogen, sharing its general architecture, components, cryogenics and logistics, is common opinion all over the world. In short, LNG today to have hydrogen tomorrow.

Something is also happening in the Mediterranean, as mentioned by the speakers from Morocco and Egypt, in addition to the first ship-to-ship refuelling carried out in La Spezia in recent days, even in the absence of national guidelines (perhaps on the way for tanker-to-ship refuelling, while ship-to-ship refuelling is developing from ship-to-ship, ship-to-ship on the open sea, from barges to ships and trucks with also electricity production).

Coming to Liguria and Genoa, still the main port in the Mediterranean, it should be noted that this is the only area in the country where LNG has been contested not so much for its location (there have also been and still are disputes about this in other ports) as for the technology itself.
Given that there is no such thing as risk-free human activity, the Forum has studied in depth the safety and risk analysis parameters that led, for example, to the regulation to supply LNG to passenger ships in La Spezia, with the agreement of the Ligurian Maritime Directorate.

As emerged during the works, an industrial LNG plant has been operating without any problem for more than three years in the industrial area of the Port of Genoa, regularly supplied by tankers. This installation is similar to the hundreds of service stations for trucks and cars that have been built in Italy up to now.

As already announced by representatives of local governments, the next steps will have to concern citizens, to explain and illustrate the new fuel and its use, also in relation, but not only, to its great environmental benefits, which are determining its success.

Advantages that can, as already mentioned, multiply if we move on to bioLNG (liquefied biogas/biomethane cycle), produced with organic waste (from city separate collection) and with all other agricultural biomass and sewage sludge.

This requires making waste management a real industrial chain, and it is interesting to note that a single regional company with entrepreneurial capacity and adequate volumes to be treated is planned. Then there is the hydromethane batch and, as has also been said, Genoa and Liguria have all the scientific resources and technological capabilities to study the cycle and propose sustainable industrial solutions.

Is there an LNG depot in Genoa or in the hinterland for small-scale uses? Certainly a refuelling point would be useful for the tankers that cross the Region from France every day by the dozens to refuel service stations and industries in Northern and Central Italy. For the first time, thanks to the Forum, we also know how much money would be saved if the tankers filled up in Genoa or Liguria.

In Southern Europe, the use of LNG in land transport is currently prevalent, and it is the one that should be intercepted first, keeping the maritime market ready. LNG boats have already docked and more and more will dock in Ligurian ports. Not only cruise ships, but also container ships and ferries. Someone will come to supply them, that’s for sure. The tanker will arrive, do the service and leave.

Genoa, compared to other Mediterranean ports, has the disadvantage of not having a large LNG depot nearby from which to “tap” the small quantities needed for transport. However, it has the quantities from its own, which may be important. The more quantities, the more economical and amortized.

There are those who do not see it. No manager or official of the Port Authorities of Barcelona and Marseille, although repeatedly invited, has found the 15 minutes to speak at the Forum.

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