A 2020 target to roll out LNG infrastructure across all of the EU’s core maritime ports has been rejected by member states, according to EU officials on 30 September.
The target date as well as the infrastructure were both seen as “critical” by the European Commission for industry to meet tightening marine emission controls.
The date has now been pushed back by five years and member states have gained “the flexibility to choose themselves which ports are to be equipped,” European Commission official Hugues Van Honacker told ICIS.
Rules around the established low sulphur directive have not changed, Van Honacker emphasised, meaning that from the beginning of next year in northern Europe, it will be forbidden to use marine fuels with a sulphur content of more than 0.1% – down from 1% currently. From 2020, the rule is slated to apply across the EU.
In preparation for the imminent stricter controls, a series of northern European projects promoting LNG as a viable fuel have developed to varying degrees of success. However, while LNG can be seen as an attractive economic alternative, it is not the only alternative.
“Member states may still be hopeful of improvements and innovations in other alternative technologies,” Van Honacker said.
By pushing back the final date and taking greater control of port infrastructure targets, member states are allowing more space for alternatives. Projected growth in northern Europe’s LNG marine fuel market from about 1mtpa in 2015 to over 4mtpa by 2020 may take longer to spread across the continent than European authorities previously anticipated.
Nonetheless, the 28 states that make up the EU have agreed “to ensure that an appropriate number of refuelling points for LNG are put in place at maritime ports by 31 December 2025,” according to a statement approved by the European Council on 29 September.
The appropriate number would enable LNG inland waterway vessels or seagoing ships to circulate throughout Europe’s core transport network by the end of 2025, the statement said. Member states are to ensure this through national policy frameworks which they will have until November 2016 to finalise, according to Van Honacker.
Outside the northern European low-sulphur emission region where a number of “core ports” have already taken steps to provide LNG refuelling facilities, there are 42 coastal “core ports” in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The Iberian peninsula and Italy each hold 12 while Greece has five. Within Europe’s inland waterways there are further strategic “core ports.”