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B.C. supports building LNG ship-refuelling facility

Facility would be first on West Coast, helping refuel growing numbers of LNG-powered ships while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The B.C. government, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and FortisBC are studying a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) ship-refuelling facility on B.C.’s West Coast. The facility would enable LNG-powered cargo and cruise ships to refuel there, and be the first such facility on North America’s west coast.

While an exact location has not been decided, a likely option would be near the Fortis LNG plant on Tilbury Island in the Fraser River, located in Delta. The LNG plant currently fuels five B.C. Ferries vessels and two Seaspan cargo ferries. However, refueling currently occurs by truck. The new proposal would see FortisBC partner with WesPac Midstream to construct a full-service jetty that would fill up refueling vessels, which would in turn provide LNG to vessels on the ocean.

The use of LNG for ship fuel (also called bunker fuel) is expected to increase dramatically in coming years. LNG is more environmentally friendly than commonly used diesel fuel, producing about 20 per cent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That reduction is even greater when the LNG is produced using electricity from renewable sources—as is the case for FortisBC’s Tilbury facility. According to the B.C. government, LNG produced there would reduce GHG emissions in marine shipping by up to 26 per cent.

“We are confident in B.C.’s ability to join the global network of ports that deliver clean-burning LNG direct to the ships of the future,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement. Premier Horgan, who recently visited the world’s largest LNG bunkering facility at the Dutch port of Rotterdam, added “This will allow B.C. to have a direct impact on global emissions by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from visiting vessels. 

The shift to LNG will be boosted by new international environmental standards that require the shipping industry reduce the sulfur content in ship fuel from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent. LNG is one way ships can meet this strict standard, which takes effect in 2020. According to forecasts from Wood Mackenzie, global demand for LNG as bunker fuel is expected to increase from just 170,000 tonnes of LNG in 2018 to nine million tonnes per year in 2025. By 2035, global demand is projected to be over 35 million tonnes per year.

The B.C. government also notes that during its construction, the project would contribute about $1.8 billion over five years to the province’s gross domestic product, and support the creation of 14,000 full-time equivalent person years of employment. Once fully operational, the facility could have an economic impact of $930 million a year while supporting 3,170 full-time equivalent person years of employment.