Bilbao to complete list of Spanish LNG reload ports

18 June 2014 23:00 Source:ICIS

The Spanish port of Bilbao has become the last of the country’s six LNG import terminals to be converted to allow it to offer LNG reloading services, a spokeswoman for the port authority of Bilbao confirmed on 17 June.

The development has been greeted with enthusiasm by market observers, some of whom believe that it will represent a big step in consolidating Spain’s claim as an international LNG hub.

Until recently, LNG imported into the Bilbao and Barcelona terminals has tended to remain marooned, unless it could be transported virtually through the use of time and location swaps. But the new move potentially opens the door for even more Spanish in-tank LNG to be available for commercial reload opportunities.

“The port of Bilbao is now ready to load [LNG] vessels. The company, Bahia de Bizkaia Gas (BBG), has been able to do reloads for a couple of months now,” the port authority spokeswoman said, adding that the only outstanding detail concerned companies who wished to supply LNG as a fuel to vessels either from other vessels, or from the dockside.

“Some companies wishing to supply gas on a commercial basis, whether by land or by sea, also need port authority authorisation to do so,” she concluded.

“We have already prepared the paperwork for when they request it.”

Bilbao’s reload conversion follows that of Barcelona and Sagunto. As reported in April, Barcelona will start offering commercial reloads from 1 July. Sagunto was granted permission to do reloads in March 2013 and has since turned into one of Spain’s busiest reload terminals. The ports of Huelva, Cartagena and Ferrol have been able to carry out reloads for a number of years.

An announcement published in Spanish state bulletin BOE on 3 April shows that BBG in March requested a modification to its current LNG import and distribution concession in order to “develop activities complementary with… in particular the loading of vessels, bunkering and loading road tankers in order to supply transport-related consumption – that is, the supply of LNG to petrol stations.”

Under Spanish bylaws, decisions regarding new services and uses at Spanish ports fall to the local port authority concerned. Where a change is “substantial” – that is to say, it entails a change of commercial purpose, or enlarges the footprint of a port by more than 10% – the port is obliged to give businesses and entities potentially affected by the application 20 working days from publication of a notice in BOE in which to make any objections or representations. This period has now elapsed.

There had been no representations within the 20-day window, the Bilbao port authority spokeswoman said.

The port authority was unable to give information on when commercial operations would start, and Spanish gas transmission system operator Enagas and Bilbao terminal operator BBG did not reply in time to be included in this article.

One trader said he had heard that reloads at Bilbao would begin soon, although he was unable to give a date.

A second market source, based at another Spanish LNG terminal, expected Bilbao to start the reload service imminently, with Barcelona following in the third quarter of the year. Rob Songer

By Rob Songer