GDF Suez charters world’s largest FSRU for Uruguay

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GDF Suez and project partner Marubeni have chartered what will be the world’s largest floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) when it starts up, for an LNG import project in Uruguay. The FSRU, which will form part of the offshore GNL del Plata terminal, will have storage capacity of 263,000 cubic metres (cm), about the same as Qatar’s Q-Max LNG carriers, currently the largest in service.

The largest FSRU currently under construction is Excelerate Energy’s 173,000 cm VT3 vessel, destined for Brazil. The company – currently the leader in the deployment of FSRUs – announced last year that it had plans for a design of around the same storage capacity as the Uruguay FSRU, dubbed FSRU-Plus, but has yet to find a customer for the technology.

If the Uruguay project goes ahead as planned, it will add further weight to assertions being advanced by a number of companies – Excelerate amongst them – that offshore LNG import terminals based on FSRUs are becoming “a true alternative to land-based terminals”.

In an interview with Gastech News last year, Excelerate CEO Rob Bryngelson said: “It’s a fallacy that having all the storage onshore improves your reliability and your deliverability. We’ve never seen it as an issue in any of the projects we’ve been operating. And if it is, one way of accommodating it, and one of the things that some new projects are thinking of, is to have a conventional vessel sit alongside an FSRU as additional storage. That aside, we consistently see over 99% availability for all of our projects.”

A government priority – substituting gas for oil: GDF Suez signed a 15-year build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) contract with Gas Sayago – a subsidiary of the Uruguayan state-owned companies UTE and ANCAP – for LNG storage and regasification services on 1st October last year. Marubeni became a 50% partner in the project this month.

Uruguay LNG Terminal

An artist’s impression of Uruguay’s first LNG import terminal. GNL del Plata will consist of a 263,000 cubic metre FSRU and a jetty, protected by a 1.5 km breakwater. It will be able to receive LNG carriers with storage capacity of up to 218,000 cubic metres. (Source: GDF Suez)

Commenting on the signing of the contract, Gérard Mestrallet, Chairman and CEO of GDF Suez, said: “GNL del Plata marks our entry into the Uruguayan market and further expands our presence in Latin America, which is a key growth region for our group. LNG demand in the region is expected to more than double within the next 10 years and this terminal will allow us to support the development of the LNG industry and to strengthen our global LNG footprint and experience.”

Development of LNG regasification capacity, identified as a priority by Uruguay’s government, forms part of the nation’s 2005-2030 energy policy. GNL del Plata  will contribute to a significant change in the country’s energy mix – increasing the share of natural gas and reducing the proportion of imported oil.

The FSRU will be 345 metres long and 55 metres wide, with regasification capacity of 10 MMcm/d (3.7 Bcm/year), expandable to 15 MMcm/d (5.6 Bcm/year).

It will be moored 4 km offshore Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city, at the GNL del Plata terminal, which will consist of the FSRU and a jetty, protected by a 1.5 km breakwater. It will be able to receive LNG carriers of up to 218,000 cm. The entire capacity of the terminal has been reserved by Gas Sayago.

Bridging solution: The FSRU has been chartered from an affiliate of Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines and is being constructed by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering DSME in South Korea. Although the new FSRU is not due for delivery until late 2016, the GNL del Plata terminal will begin commercial operation in 2015, with an existing FSRU – the GDF Suez Neptune – being used as a bridging solution. Tractebel Engineering will act as owner engineer during the construction phase.

In addition to the new Uruguay vessel and GDF Suez Neptune, the company operates GDF Suez Neptune Ann, which is serving as an FSRU in the Chinese port of Tianjin.

The company operates a fleet of 14 LNG carriers and has an interest in a number of regasification terminals around the world. In particular, since 2010 the company has been operating the GNL Mejillones import terminal in Chile, which is able to deliver up to 5 MMcm/d of gas to power generators to meet copper mining and other industrial demand.

According to GDF Suez, a total of 15 FSRUs have been built to date with another 10 FSRUs under construction or on order.

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