An Interview with | OLT Offshore LNG Toscana

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We interviewed Alessandro Fino, Managing Director OLT Offshore LNG Toscana, the company which manages the floating storage and regasification unit “FSRU Toscana”. “FSRU Toscana” is permanently moored off the Italian coast – between Livorno and Pisa- in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea.

What role does the Small Scale LNG play for Italy?

The new International and European standards for emissions represent a great opportunity for the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which guarantee excellent performances for maritime and land transport. As emerged also during the Summit organized in Livorno with Assocostieri, LNG will have an important role in the transition phase we are experiencing.

Small Scale LNG (SSLNG) projects are fundamental to increase the use of this resource as fuel and to supply methane to isolated networks.

Unfortunately, Italy is running a little behind in the development of the LNG logistics chain and, in particular, for the bunkering use. However, we are catching up, the country needs targeted investments in the sector. Also, in addition to the project for the provision of the SSLNG service by OLT, there are several authorized or undergoing projects that will allow the development of a national LNG supply network.

In this scenario, what does the Small Scale represent for OLT?

The Small Scale LNG is certainly a great opportunity for the company and for the area that hosts the Terminal. “FSRU Toscana”, thanks to its location in the heart of the Mediterranean, could play a decisive role in the supply chain for the supply and distribution of this fuel.

Where are we with the project?

The Terminal conversion project to ensure the Small Scale LNG service is moving forward. As a first step, we have conducted a feasibility study in recent years. The study confirmed that, with marginal changes, the Terminal will be able to unload LNG on small ships, which could supply the LNG onshore deposits located in the main ports. Following the positive result obtained in the feasibility study, OLT continued with the course undertaken, examining the authorization aspects necessary to offer the service. To this end, some studies have been carried out, co-financed under the European CEF – Connecting Europe Facility call and, in recent months, the company has started the authorization process; the objective is to obtain the necessary permits and implement changes onboard the Terminal by 2020 to allow the start of the SSLNG service in 2021.

It is important to emphasize that the new service will leave the maximum authorized regasification capacity unchanged; therefore, the Terminal will be able to continue to play its role of guarantee for the energy security of the country while offering a further service, which in the coming years will prove to be central.

It is significant that, as regards the maritime sector, from January 1, 2020 the new IMO limits on sulfur emissions for ships will come into force; starting from that date, the ports that will offer LNG bunkering will have a clear strategic advantage over the other Mediterranean ports.

The main events in the LNG sector take place in China or in the United States. Too ambitious to have an international reference conference dedicated exclusively to the Small Scale LNG in Italy?

Quite the contrary, we believe that this is a subject that is still too limited to the “experts”. It is essential to make the whole chain of subjects, directly and indirectly interested in the SSLNG service, understand the concrete socio-economic benefits that it can generate for the country system.