TOKYO — The Port of Yokohama could house Japan’s first fueling station for ships using liquefied natural gas under a public-private investment effort aimed at meeting growing interest in the relatively clean fuel.
A committee including officials from Japan’s transport and economy ministries as well as representatives from Tokyo Gas and shipper Nippon Yusen will meet as soon as Thursday to look into the creation of LNG fueling stations, using Yokohama’s port as a model case. Officials from the city and the port’s operator will participate as well.
Tokyo Gas already operates an LNG terminal in Yokohama, while Nippon Yusen has introduced tugboats running on the fuel. The committee will examine the state of the city’s port, as well as the costs, technological needs and market factors involved in the project, to produce an infrastructure development plan as soon as this year. Updating port facilities and purchasing fueling ships alone are seen costing over 10 billion yen ($93.1 million).
The higher cost of building vessels that burn LNG means that only some current container and cruise ships are capable of doing so. Yet the fuel yields environmental benefits compared with traditional heavy oil, releasing few sulfur oxides when burned. Emissions of those compounds already are heavily regulated off the shores of North America and northern Europe. The United Nations’ International Maritime Organization could tighten rules for other oceanic territory as soon as 2020.
Measures to promote liquefied natural gas as a fuel for ships are included in Japan’s plan to develop that market, announced in May at the meeting of Group of Seven energy ministers. The transport ministry anticipates the addition of LNG stations making Japan’s ports more internationally competitive as well.