TotalEnergies has plumped for Spain’s Grupo Ibaizabal to build at least one LNG bunker vessel for the company following a tender.

Those following the process said it is expected to be of a similar size to the 18,600-cbm vessels previously ordered for use by its fuelling arm, TotalEnergies Marine Fuels, by Mitsui OSK Lines.

Like them, the latest newbuilding will be ordered at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) in China and fitted with membrane-type cargo tanks.

The vessel is to be delivered by 2027 and chartered out to TotalEnergies for up to seven years.

It is expected to be sited in the Port of Long Beach, California.

TradeWinds understands that at least one optional LNGBV has been negotiated with the shipyard.

TotalEnergies has been contacted about the upcoming order.

Grupo Ibaizabal has not been among the more prominent names in LNG bunkering to date but does have experience in the sector since a first pilot operation in 2018. It controls the 600-cbm LNG and oil bunkering vessel Oizmendi (built 2009).

The selection of Grupo Ibaizabal means German owner Bernhard Schulte missed out on the job after making it to the final two shortlisted companies fighting it out for the business.

Rising demand

Earlier, Dutch shipowner Anthony Veder, Avenir LNG and MOL had also been competing for the vessel.

TotalEnergies’ new marine and aviation fuelling senior vice president, Louise Tricoire, told TradeWinds in May that the company plans to site a new LNGBV on the US west coast by 2027 and a second at its recently approved Marsa LNG project in the Port of Sohar in Oman a year later.

The company has access to three large LNGBVs and forecasts LNG bunker demand will rise to a nominal 22m tonnes per annum by the end of the decade — depending on which fuel ships sail on — which will require between 35 and 40 additional vessels.

The looming supply gap is attracting new entrants.

This week, trader Vitol confirmed a decisive move into the sector with three LNGBVs, as first reported by TradeWinds on 5 June.

Vitol International Shipping took one 20,000-cbm vessel already booked by Avenir LNG on time charter for up to 10 years from delivery in 2026.

It also ordered one 20,000-cbm and one 12,500-cbm LNGBV at CIMC Sinopacific Offshore & Engineering Co in China for delivery in 2027 and 2026, respectively.

Fifty-one LNGBVs are in operation globally, with up to 12 more due to come on line in the next two years.