Japan's Astomos Looks to Grow LPG Bunkering Market

Tuesday March 21, 2017

Astomos Energy Corporation (Astomos) intends to work with Japan's other top liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) importers, possibly within the next year, to explore the feasibility of establishing LPG bunkering ahead of the 2020 implementation of a 0.50 percent cap on sulfur in marine fuel, the company's president, Osamu Masuda, has told Platts.

Masuda says Astomos plans to work with Eneos Globe Corporation (Eneos Globe), Gyxis Corporation (Gyxis), Japan Gas Energy Corporation (Japan Gas Energy), as well as shipowners and shipbuilders on the initiative, noting: "we do not see this as our company's single project. This would be an all Japan [effort]."

Masuda says the Japan LP Gas Association, the LP Gas Center, and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, as well as a number of others, are also working to develop demand for LPG bunkering,

"The next step is to decide on everyone's role to realise this [LPG bunkering]," Masuda said, adding that refiners, shippers and government ministries have shown interest so far.

"Currently we are not looking at doing LPG bunkering individually or developing such a business model."

Masuda explains that it is currently unclear if LPG could represent a stable bunker supply, noting that LPG is currently viewed as a byproduct, "unlike LNG."

Still, Masuda believes that challenges to the uptake of LPG bunkering can be managed, explaining that "technical [difficulties for LPG bunkering] could be overcome from putting in [industrial] expertise and money."

Astomos has initiated a study on the  feasibility of introducing LPG-fuelled tankers to it fleet, which Masuda says may be launched by 2020 - once the LPG industry begins moving ahead with bunkering and a standard LPG fuel for vessels draws closer.

"But a question is, who will take the first bath before anyone else," said Masuda of LPG bunkering, adding: "if there is only one company, it could be squeezed."

Last week, Ship & Bunker reported that Alfa Laval has announced that, after more than a year of development, the first Alfa Laval FCM One Low-Flashpoint (LF) booster system for use on a LPG-powered engine is set to be delivered to the MAN Diesel & Turbo SE (MAN) test site in Copenhagen in the coming weeks.