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Operations and major projects

Filling of tank trucks with LNG: Europe’s first automated station


Keen to satisfy its clients by offering new services, the Dunkirk LNG terminal is commissioning an automated tank-truck LNG filling station. The tank trucks will then be able, among other things, to supply vessels. This innovative project, which required two years of studies and construction work, is a first in Europe.

It resembles a conventional filling station but it offers an unprecedented service. Dunkerque LNG’s LNG filling station enables trucks to fill up with 40 m3 of liquid gas - almost 18 tonnes - in 50 minutes. "It is almost as simple as filling up your own car," notes Souhail Lahlou, the engineer entrusted with this project. "LNG is loaded thanks to a difference in pressure between the tank and the station. Drivers can fill their tank trucks on their own, as long as they have completed a training course. The man-machine interface is intuitive and effective."

Up to 3,000 trucks per year

This supply project forms part of the €50 million investment plan announced in February 2019 for the next three years. The commissioning of the filling station in February 2020 marks the end of two years of studies and construction work. The work site was entrusted to Edison, an Italian engineering firm that is very familiar with the terminal. As from June 2019, the teams within Dunkerque LNG and Gaz-Opale got involved in the project. "We carried out, in particular, all of the test phases, which are essential for guaranteeing user safety and ensuring that the station functions correctly," explains Souhail Lahlou. "Drafting the contract for this new service also required a great deal of work." The company Total Marine Fuels made a financial investment in this project. At the moment, it is the only client signed up to use this automated station. Nevertheless, other companies could also be interested in it. "In 2020, the station is expected to fill 1,000 trucks but it has the capacity to fill 3,000 trucks per year. There is, therefore, substantial room for progress," concludes Souhail Lahlou.

LNG bunkering - an environmentally-friendly marine fuel

The terminal’s refilled tanks will be used, in particular, to bunker the Honfleur, the first LNG-powered vessel that is owned by Brittany Ferries and sails between Ouistreham in Normandy and Portsmouth in England. The tank trucks are hoisted by crane on to the vessel using gantries installed for this purpose. The containers fill a fixed LNG storage tank located to the aft of the vessel. 

For environmental reasons in particular, LNG is bound to develop as a marine fuel. In comparison with vessels powered by heavy fuel oil, the use of LNG reduces sulphur and fine-particle emissions by 99% and CO2 emissions by 25%.

Article présenté sur la lettre d'information : Février 2020


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