More than 35 large LNG bunker vessels (LNGBVs) will be needed by 2030 to be able to supply the existing and incoming dual-fuelled global fleet.

Speaking at IQPC’s 10th LNG Bunkering & Future Fuel Global Summit 2023, TotalEnergies LNG bunkering general manager Dahlia Rifai said there is overcapacity in the LNGBV sector as of today.

But Rifai said a shortage becomes evident from 2026 if no additional LNGBVs are ordered.

She said this shortage represents around 13 million tonnes per annum of capacity, which equates to 35 large LNGBVs of between 12,000 cbm and 18,000 cbm in size.

Rifai said there is a need to have cooperation between bunker suppliers and customers.

“As of today, there are tenders that are launched and requests for location but no preliminary discussions among the parties to try to build this model and try to develop LNGBVs when they will be needed,” she said.

“To move faster, there is really a need for collaboration and mature commitment. This will really make it faster.”

Rifai said TotalEnergies, which operates LNGBVs out of Rotterdam and Fos-sur-Mer in the south of France and will add a vessel in Singapore soon, is looking “very seriously” at the US west coast for LNG bunkering infrastructure.

She said LNG demand for marine fuelling remains strong, driven by the growing number of newbuildings.

Rifai added that the nominal LNG bunker demand is expected to reach nine million tonnes in 2025, with more than 830 vessels trading.

Of these, container ships will account for around 50% of the demand, with this focused on boxships of 13,000-teu to 15,000-teu and 7,000-teu to 8,000-teu capacities.

These will be followed by vessels in the cruise and ferry sector and car carriers.

Rifai raised the question of whether this nominal demand will be translated into reality as the dual-fuelled vessels also have the capability to burn very low-sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO).

She gave some estimates about how regulations may affect the price of the two fuels in the next few years, which could give LNG some headroom to be competitive with VLSFO even if its price is slightly higher.

Rifai said LNG sustainability will come together with the addition of bio-methane addition as a drop-in fuel. She said TotalEnergies sees huge opportunities for biogas production and its potential exceeds demand.