How FSRU’s are impacting LNG market evolution
Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRU) combine the key elements of an LNG vessel and regas terminal in a single unit. This can significantly reduce the capex costs and lead times for connecting LNG to new markets or access points. It also adds commercial flexibility that is increasing in value as the LNG market evolves.
The emergence of FSRU
The FSRU business started relatively recently in 2001 when El Paso contracted with Excelerate Energy to build the first such vessel for the Gulf Gateway project. FSRUs are closely related to standard LNG vessels. But they have additional equipment to regasify the cargo and send it out onto customer or gas networks.
For several years FSRUs remained a relatively niche opportunity. But more recently there has been a significant pick up in deployment of the technology as costs and capability have been optimised and FSRU units are being used to access new markets.
FSRU fleet size
The global FSRU fleet currently consists of approximately 30 vessels. In addition there is an order book of 6 vessels to be delivered by 2020, with options on another 10.
The first FSRUs were based on nominal 130,000 m3 LNG tankers with send out rates of 2-3 mtpa. However the more recent vessels are larger – typically 173,000 m3 with send out rates up to 6 mtpa. The FSRUs currently under construction provide the same full processing capability as land based terminals including full boil-off gas management facilities using recondensers.
The three key reasons supporting investment in FSRUs are summarised in Table 1.
Table 1: 3 Key FSRU advantages
|Lower capital cost||
|Shorter lead time||
Source: Timera Energy
In addition to FSRUs there are currently 4 floating storage vessels (FSUs) in operation, one in Malta and 2 in Malaysia. All are converted LNG tankers. There is also a small-scale FSU operating in Bali. A further FSU is currently being constructed for Bahrain LNG.
LNG market impact
The main impact of FSRU technology on LNG market evolution is to provide quicker and more flexible access to new sources of demand.
Markets that currently rely on FSRUs to import LNG include Colombia, Pakistan and Egypt. Bangladesh (4 mtpa) and Bahrain (6 mtpa) are currently developing facilities due online in 2018-19.
Potential future locations are focused on emerging markets or locations more isolated from other gas infrastructure. These include Hawaii, Caribbean, additional Indonesian & Malaysian archipelago markets, Sth Africa, Kenya, Vietnam, Phillipines, Croatia, Myanmar and developing African coastal states.
FSRUs are also supporting the evolution of commercial flexibility in the LNG market. Commodity traders are targeting FSRU projects because of their flexibility and optionality. Trafigura and Gunvor are developing projects in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Vitol is looking to partner with Total to do a further Pakistani project.
This interest reflects the capability of FSRUs to be a significant source of growth in supply chain flexibility.
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