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Port of Barcelona set sights on becoming LNG bunkering hub in Mediterranean

28 Feb 2023

PierNext, a digital knowledge hub spearheaded by Port of Barcelona, on Thursday (23 February) published an article on LNG as a transition fuel and Barcelona consolidating itself as an LNG bunkering hub in the Mediterranean. The following is an excerpt from its article titled ‘LNG: a fuel for energy transition’:


“When the policy of introducing LNG at the Port of Barcelona began in 2014, there were practically no ships powered by this fuel. Nor were there any specific supply logistics and the numerous reluctances to use it made its implementation practically impossible,” explains Jordi Vila, head of the Environment at the Barcelona Port Authority.

Today, however, the situation is completely different. “Since 2017, LNG bunkering operations have been carried out from tanker trucks, in the truck-to-ship mode, and since 2019, in the ship-to-ship mode, always safely and without any accidents,” says Vila.

Vila also adds that the introduction of LNG in the port of Barcelona has helped to break the pre-established patterns and inertia acquired over decades of using traditional fuels. Thanks to the implementation of pilot projects, such as Cleanport or Core LNGas hive, the necessary risk analyses have been carried out for the safe supply of the fuel. Furthermore, the development of the logistical supply chain has been facilitated.

“The port community, shipowners and the Port Authority itself were able to experience that the fuel was technically viable and safe, facilitating its subsequent penetration as a fuel for LNG-powered ships and opening up the future introduction of other fuels of equal or greater complexity from the safety point of view, such as hydrogen or ammonia,” explains the head of the Environment.


In 2021, LNG bunkering operations at the Port of Barcelona accounted for almost 11% of total bunkering operations. In 2022, however, the figures reduced. “It has been complicated by the global rise in LNG prices, aggravated by the war in Ukraine. This has meant that LNG carriers, having dual engines, reduced their LNG usage,” explains Daniel Ruiz, Environment technician at the Port of Barcelona.

In total, 26,400 cubic metres of LNG were supplied in 32 operations, compared to 65,000 cubic metres and 236 operations in 2021 (a year in which the effects of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were still there). “It is estimated that, when prices normalise and regulatory measures penalising the use of diesel start to be applied, LNG use will return to levels higher than those of 2021,” concludes Vila.

In addition, LNG use is expected to increase as more ships are built using LNG. In turn, more vessels will use it when the logistics chain is implemented in other shipping routes. “Currently the average life of a ship is around 25 to 30 years, so in order to order a ship with a new fuel, the shipowner must be sure that the fuel will be available on all its routes, throughout this time and at a reasonable price,” says Vila.

“Although LNG is a fossil fuel, it is the only technologically mature fuel that can reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions which has a logistics chain in place in many ports. This allows shipowners to be sure about its supply,” he explains.


Since the beginning of 2023, the Haugesund Knutsen has been permanently based at the Port of Barcelona. This is the first LNG bunkering vessel to be built in Spain and the first to be permanently based in a Spanish port.

Until now, vessels supplying LNG to other ships in the Port of Barcelona were not based there, but had to make long journeys – sometimes from Gibraltar, the Canary Islands or the Netherlands – to reach their destination. The Haugesund Knutsen, however, will be based in the Mediterranean port, which will facilitate and reduce the costs of these operations.

The vessel itself has been designed for agile and flexible deliveries. “It has bunker stations on both sides, as well as amidships and at the stern of the vessel, which allows it to supply port and starboard to different types of receiving vessels and to operate in a wide range of terminals for loading LNG,” explains Daniel Ruiz.

“It has two bi-lobe C-type tanks with a total capacity of 5,000 cubic metres of LNG and has been designed with a low overhead draft, which allows it to dock with cruise ships below the lifeboat line. This avoids the use of a breakaway pontoon between the supply vessel and the receiver, saving costs and operating time,” he adds.

The vessel, owned by Knutsen and Enagás subsidiary Scale Gas, was built as part of the LNGHive 2 Barcelona project. According to the Port of Barcelona’s environmental managers, participation in this project has led to improvements in the drafting of a new set of specific specifications for the supply of LNG as a port service, which will be published in a few months and which has enabled the existing supply regulations to be improved.

“This and other advances will help to consolidate the port of Barcelona as an LNG bunkering hub in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, our wish is that in the future it will also be consolidated as a bunkering hub for the new zero-carbon fuels,” says Ruiz.

Note: The full article ‘LNG: a fuel for energy transition’ can be found here.


Photo credit: Port of Barcelona
Published: 28 February, 2023

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