LNG best option for Corpus Christi as port turbocharges green bunkering vessel drive

Aerial photo taken over Corpus Christi Bay featuring the city skyline and marina

The Port of Corpus Christi’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) provider Stabilis Solutions highlights LNG as a prime transition fuel as shipping seeks to reduce emissions.

The MoU, announced in May 2021, will be offered immediately to vessels through truck-to-ship bunkering, with the potential of future investments in infrastructure to support other bunkering modes in the future.

LNG as a vessel fuel offers considerable benefits, the Port Authority told PTI.

LNG reduces emissions on a well-to-wake lifecycle basis in NOx, SOx, air particulates, and greenhouse gases (GHG) relative to diesel engines, explained Jeff Pollack, Chief Strategy Officer, Port Corpus Christi Authority (PCCA).

“We have our eyes wide open about our role in the global hydrocarbon economy and about the responsibility that comes with it,” Pollack said.

Pollack continued that since the beginning of 2020, the port has received 175 vessel calls by seven different LNG-powered vessels – leading the port to note that LNG bunkering can make an immediate impact.

Why LNG?

The PCCA sees LNG as the ideal marine fuel in a market “where there is a dearth of commercially viable alternatives to diesel,” Pollack said.

“While LNG does, in and of itself, confer emissions and efficiency advantages over diesel, LNG can also play a role as a transitional fuel in that LNG-ready vessels will be able to use accommodate low carbon ‘drop-in’ fuels (i.e. usable as an alternative to LNG without engine modifications) such as bioLNG and liquified synthetic methane once these are commercially available,” he continued.

Pollack highlighted, however, that the port is “actively working to define our niche” in the transition to alternative energy sources.

The PCCA echoed the argument the Port of Long Beach made in April regarding the need for ports to provide a “basket of renewable” energy sources. This has been exemplified by the PCCA’s recent announcement of a green hydrogen production facility MoU announced on 12 May with Ares Management.

“If we are committed to remaining the energy port of the Americas—and indeed we are—then we must cultivate the technologies, customer base, and commercial ventures that will make our gateway relevant not just in five or 15 years but also in 35 and 50,” he said.

Building adoption

Whilst industry adoption of LNG is on the up, to catalyse adoption to low and zero-emission fuels, the PCCA will offer grant funding opportunities to vessels to encourage investment in LNG capabilities.

“Our Port has a robust grants programme and has a strong track record in securing state and federal funds to support strategic infrastructure projects,” Pollack said.

“That said, we would not necessarily argue that grants per se will be crucial in allowing ports to convert to LNG.

“Federal incentives, grants or otherwise, can certainly catalyse and expedite this transition, but the utility of LNG as a marine fuel is such that the market will drive this conversion.”

Pollack noted that there are around 60 ports worldwide offering LNG bunkering to accommodate around 200 LNG vessels worldwide.

The world fleet also includes around 150 vessels plumbed for LNG, but will require some modifications from diesel-powered, the PCCA noted.

Pollack said that vessel lifespans force ship-owners to “try to anticipate” and plan for technological changes in the energy marketplace.

“[This] is why we see so many dual fuel vessels that are plumbed for LNG and can be converted relatively easily during an overhaul,” Pollack said.

“Partnerships like this with Stabilis are an important way to send a signal to the marketplace that ports are making the provisions to accommodate an increasingly LNG-powered world fleet.”

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