Grain LNG visit

Nov 19 2013

Grain LNG visit
By Gillian Macrosson

As the Publishing Manager at Witherbys, my background is in publishing and not in shipping. To help me learn more about the shipping industry, I recently attended a fascinating panel meeting for the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) in London, followed by a trip to National Grid's liquefied natural gas (LNG) installation at Grain LNG on the Isle of Grain peninsula on the River Medway in north Kent.

With the gas supplies from the North Sea continuing to decrease, LNG is an increasingly important fossil fuel and the UK's need for LNG to be imported will continue to grow rapidly. It was impressive to see the forward thinking approach that Grain LNG have taken to not only build a facility that can cope with demand in the next few years, but also for the long-term future expansion required to keep up with the UK's need for LNG imports.

National Grid have invested £1.1 billion into the site and it has the capacity to supply up to 20% of the UK's gas energy needs. Its two jetties can deal with the huge Q-Max vessels, with a capacity of up to 265,000 cubic metres. To be able to see this terminal up close was a tremendous experience for me as a newcomer to the industry and to see the jetties, pipes, and LNG storage tanks that we talk about in our publications in real life and up close was a real education.

The ships come alongside one of the LNG importation jetties where the LNG is unloaded and stored in a cryogenic tank. The four storage tanks at Grain LNG are the largest above-ground tanks in the world, able to store 190,000 cubic metres of LNG each. It was awe-inspiring to see these tanks and to be told that each of them is larger than the Royal Albert Hall. The LNG is re-gasified and sent along the pipes into the national systems. The terminal can process 3.3 million tonnes of LNG a year.

The scale of the whole operation was immense. It is the largest terminal in Europe (by capacity) and the 8th largest LNG importation terminal in the world. I was most struck by the expertise and dedication of the wonderful staff that looked after us during our visit. They were obviously very proud to be at the forefront of such an innovative and important industry for the UK.

To be involved, in a small way, in such a new area of the shipping industry is really exciting, and it will be fascinating to see how the use of LNG as a fuel for not only marine, but also road, develops in the next few years.

Unfortunately, due to high winds on the day of my visit, we missed seeing a cargo of LNG being delivered onboard the Al Ghuwairiya from Qatar by one day. Perhaps this could be a good excuse to visit the terminal again.