Our researchers closely cooperate with the companies involved, which have a great deal of knowledge and tools at their disposal. Together, they make an inventory of the elements which additional research should focus on in order to reach the goals which have been identified. For instance, while science has provided various models for calculating the best possible locations and supply routes, none of these models takes into account the specific characteristics LNG has, such as evaporation and redelivery, plus the accompanying logistic challenges.
In addition to that, this research focuses on designing synchromodal LNG networks. It means that the terminals can be supplied by means of different modes of transport: road, water and, possibly, rail. This will reduce the possibility of chain disruptions and increase the networks' robustness. Any potential technological innovations will also be put under the microscope, including the option of transporting LNG in containers, which would allow switching between modes of transport.
Who benefits first?
Participation in the project not only allows the companies involved to get access to building blocks for drawing up their business cases, they are also the first to benefit from new scientific knowledge. Besides that, for many businesses participation is an interesting way of getting into contact with up-and-coming talents who are eager to develop a career within the energy sector.
Substudy: where will bunker terminals be located?
Where can good locations for tanker facilities be found for the purpose of providing vessels at the North Sea with LNG? Reinier Schneider, a student of Industrial Engineering and Management at the University of Groningen graduated on this topic. 'The North Sea has 25 large ports and the cost of investing in a new terminal can easily reach 40 million euros. Opening a terminal in each port in the short term is not a realistic scenario', Mr Schneider explained.
Input for this research, which was conducted at the request of Stichting Energy Valley, consisted of the shipping movements in the North Sea. Mr Schneider developed a mathematical model which based on these data calculates which ports are the first to be eligible for being assigned a terminal. 'While there are mathematical models for similar situations on the mainland, these are not always suitable for use at sea, though, if only for the fact that a vessel at sea can move freely between ports, whereas heavy-good vehicles are confined to roads', Mr Schneider said. He will continue to work in the energy sector after graduation and intends to set up a business.
The model shows that the United Kingdom is eligible for establishing a terminal. The question remains whether this will actually happen. Mr Schneider said: 'Obviously, a model is only a partial reflection of reality. Actually choosing a location involves so many other factors; just think of politics. This model points to a direction which could be followed, though.'