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Prof. Iris Vis: ‘Switch to large-scale use of LNG golden opportunity for the Netherlands’

27 November 2013

A new distribution network is needed to enable the broad acceptance of environmentally friendly fuels such as LNG (and bio-LNG). Supply and demand must go hand in hand. The facilities thus developed will boost the Netherlands’ position as a transport country and distributor of LNG. Furthermore, the logistical knowledge acquired will itself be an excellent export product. These are the words of Iris Vis, Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Groningen.

Vis is heading the Dinalog ‘Design of LNG networks’ project, a collaboration between the University of Groningen, Eindhoven University of Technology and the business sector, which aims to get the use of LNG as a transport fuel off the ground in the Netherlands. ‘Developing a distribution network for LNG is potentially a golden opportunity for the Netherlands to maintain its role at the forefront of gas distribution. For example, LNG is one of the fuels that will enable maritime ships to satisfy the more stringent emission requirements coming into force in 2015.’

Logistical challenge

LNG is gaining momentum. It is a relatively clean fuel which, unlike gas, can be transported in tankers and ships. The logistics are still proving a challenge though, partly due to the lack of a distribution network of bunker terminals and filling stations. This means that at present, a tanker may have to follow a river transport vessel to supply it with the LNG it needs for the journey.

Chicken or egg

LNG producers and users have now joined forces to find a solution to this problem. Vis: ‘It’s a chicken or egg problem’. The transporters are waiting for filling stations, and vice versa. So we’re now sitting round the table with a frontline group of infrastructure providers (such as Gasunie, Vopak and GDF Suez), facility companies (such as Groningen Seaports), and logistics providers (such as Jan de Rijk Logistics and Intermodal Solutions).’

Blueprint

The Dinalog project ‘Design of LNG networks’ is focusing on the logistical aspects of the distribution and transport of LNG (and bio-LNG). ‘The parties involved are trying to design tools that will help with investment and infrastructural decisions, and economic and market analyses. They are also developing a blueprint of the LNG distribution chain, to get an idea of possible short and long-term locations for filling stations (fixed or mobile) and bunker facilities, for example. The blueprint will help to predict trends in demand and work out the best ways and places to supply the fuel.’

Economic impulse

Whatever else, the transition to LNG will provide a strong economic impulse, says Vis. ‘Cargo ships and vehicles will need to be converted or replaced, and we will need investment in filling stations and terminals. The Green Deal, as it is called, sets out clear agreements for the years to come: fifty maritime ships and five river vessels will sail on LNG, and five hundred lorries will also make the switch.

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Iris Vis is Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Groningen.

Last modified:28 November 2017 4.42 p.m.
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