Zeebrugge LNG terminal celebrates its 30th birthday

12.10.2017

Exactly 30 years ago today, Zeebrugge LNG terminal was officially opened in the presence of the then prime minister Wilfried Martens. The terminal was originally intended to diversify Belgium's gas supply but it has since developed, together with the Zeebrugge area as a whole, into a central crossroads for North-West Europe's gas market.

In the wake of the oil crisis of the 1970s, the Belgian government decided in 1977 to build an LNG terminal with a view to diversifying Belgium's gas sources. Construction of the peninsula, which spans over more than 30 hectares, began in 1978, after the idea was rejected of building the terminal on floating pontoons. It took four years to build the peninsula, after which construction of the actual terminal could begin.

Five years later, on 12 October 1987, the terminal was officially commissioned in the presence of numerous public figures. The LNG terminal was much maligned as a megalomaniacal project by the press in the 1980s. Views of the terminal have since changed completely: thanks to the terminal, the notion of Zeebrugge as a European hub for natural gas has taken root and the dream of Zeebrugge serving as a European energy port has now, to a large extent, become a reality.

he terminal has proven to be a magnet for new infrastructure projects. The 1990s saw major pipelines connect to Zeebrugge, with the Zeepipe being commissioned in 1993, connecting the Norwegian gas fields to Zeebrugge, followed five years later by the Interconnector, which links Bacton, UK with Zeebrugge. Pipelines also run from Zeebrugge to France, the Netherlands and Germany, further distributing the natural gas supplied. The area has also been connected to supplies from Dunkirk LNG terminal since late 2015. Together, all this infrastructure has turned the area into a crossroads for natural gas, with a supply capacity that can cover over 10% of the EU's demand for natural gas.

Expansion of the terminal first began in 2004. A market survey showed that demand for capacity to unload LNG at Zeebrugge had risen significantly. That same year, Fluxys signed long-term contracts with three customers for use of the terminal. To be able to offer the necessary capacity, a fourth storage tank and additional regasification facilities were commissioned at the terminal in 2008.

Vessels have been able to both load and unload LNG since 2010. At the same time, the terminal took its first steps towards small-scale LNG services with a view to supplying small volumes of LNG from the terminal. As a result, a small vessel was loaded for the first time. And companies were also able to load LNG trucks at the terminal: trucks deliver LNG to a range of destinations in Belgium and Europe, namely to industrial companies not connected to the natural gas network, to ports to bunker LNG-powered inland vessels, and to LNG filling stations for trucks. Over 6,000 LNG trucks have been loaded at the terminal since 2010.

The Open Rack Vaporiser was commissioned in 2013. This facility uses heat from seawater to regasify LNG, which significantly reduces the terminal's energy consumption and emissions.

he terminal became even more versatile with the commissioning of the second jetty in late 2016. The jetty was specially designed to receive LNG carriers ranging from the smallest ships with a capacity of 1,000 cubic metres of LNG up to large vessels with a capacity of 217,000 cubic metres of LNG. The second jetty also enables the terminal to respond flexibly to demand for simultaneous or consecutive berthings, as using both jetties allows two LNG carriers to be unloaded and/or loaded at the same time.

We are now building a fifth storage tank and additional process facilities. These new facilities are needed to provide for transshipment services as part of the Yamal project. Fluxys concluded a 20-year contract to transship LNG transported by ice breaker/LNG carrier from the new production terminal in Yamal in northern Siberia onto conventional LNG carriers to be conveyed to its final destination.

A second loading station for trucks will be opened next year. The number of loading operations is rising and thanks to the additional station the terminal will be able to continue to swiftly fulfil growing demand in the future.

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