RINA teams up with PCF, Oceania on low-carbon LNG production and bunkering project in Port Hedland

Pilbara Clean Fuels (PCF), Oceania Marine Energy, and Italy’s classification society RINA have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop an ‘end-to-end’ low-carbon profile LNG production and marine vessel bunkering capability concept for the port of Port Hedland.

Port Hedland iron ore export facilities. Courtesy of Norwest Energy

The three companies plan to undertake studies to define the commercial and emissions reduction benefits the combined concepts could deliver to ship owners and charterers for the Pilbara to Asia dry-bulk minerals export trade route. 

Namely, Pilbara Clean Fuels Pty Ltd is progressing the development concept for a new, mid-scale, low-carbon footprint LNG plant to be located at Port Hedland in Western Australia, the world’s largest iron ore export port.  

The project aims to provide an Australian LNG fuel supply capability through a new facility for the conversion of pipeline natural gas to LNG, responding to market demand for cleaner marine bunker fuel for dry-bulk iron ore carriers operating ‘round-trip’ voyages between the Pilbara and Asia. 

The base-case plant capacity is 0.5 Mtpa, with market analysis for Port Hedland alone (not counting other major Pilbara ports) indicating a potential demand of 1.0 Mtpa by 2030.   

A key feature of the project is a fully electrified plant with outsourced power supplied from predominantly renewable sources. The plant design intent is to significantly reduce emissions compared to conventional LNG plants, thereby providing the ability for ‘round-trip’ LNG bunkering in Port Hedland to achieve substantially lower overall GHG life-cycle emissions than other options.        

The LNG re-fuelling concept is based on ship-to-ship bunkering of vessels while at anchor off Port Hedland.

The company has already teamed up with Oceania Marine Energy on the project. Ocean Marine is developing a LNG marine fuel bunkering service capability based on the charter, ship management and operation of purpose-designed LNG bunker vessels. The vessels are to be provided by Norwegian ship-owner Kanfer Shipping.  

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RINA said that the project would include its new 209,000 DWT ‘Newcastlemax’ dry-bulk ship design currently under development. The vessel design features an innovative LNG marine fuel system involving pre-combustion carbon removal and hydrogen production, with the objective of meeting and exceeding IMO 2050 emissions reduction marine vessel Carbon Intensity Index (‘CII’) objectives. 

The RINA fuel system concept involves the capture, onboard storage and offloading of liquefied carbon dioxide or solid carbon at loading or discharge ports for onshore handling, monetization or disposal.

The concept provides a credible line-of-sight pathway to ‘zero emissions’ for the application of LNG as a marine fuel, according to RINA.

The trio said the Pilbara to Asia dry-bulk trade route is particularly suited for early adoption of the pre-combustion carbon removal and hydrogen production onboard concept due to the proposed availability of low carbon intensity LNG bunkering at Port Hedland.

The partnership has the ability to demonstrate an attractive commercial development strategy to meet not only the immediate needs of IMO 2030 emissions compliance, but the engineering step-change needed to create a practical path to IMO 2050 net-zero emissions objectives. We know the maritime community is happy with LNG as a marine fuel,” PCF Managing Director, Robert Malabar said.

We believe the outcome of the studies should provide compelling argument in support of the Western Australian Government’s May 2020 announcement to “Create an International LNG Fuelling Hub in the Pilbara.”    

Oceania, PCF, and now collaboration with RINA, heralds the beginning of a new decarbonisation initiative in Western Australia, enabling a much-needed lower-carbon fuel source for shipping. The Oceania and PCF collaboration is aimed at providing a supply capability for low-carbon footprint LNG, for the first time available on-route to the Australia – Asia iron ore shipping fleets. RINA adds to that with new ship and fuel system design enabling LNG to be viewed as a potential future zero-emissions marine fuel,” Oceania Managing Director, Nick Bentley commented.

The combined knowledge and expertise of PCF, Oceania and RINA will allow a comprehensive approach to the project, rather than to the single phases, that will actually maximize the emissions reduction effort. The shipping industry is living a time of uncertainty that still requires immediate investments. Port Hedland is the world’s biggest iron ore export point and providing such system with a solution that allows a more flexible transition while achieving IMO 2050 targets with an existing fuel will be a massive contribution to the path to West Australia green corridor,” RINA Marine Consulting Executive Vice President, Massimo Volta concluded.