Axpo debuts in bunkering in Italy

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The LNG supply ship that the Swiss company Axpo will position in the port of Naples will be operational at the beginning of 2025. The first of this type in Europe and for the company, which has another one arriving in Spain, ready towards the end of 2025. «We currently have two ships in the yard, the first two managed by us, but it is possible that in the future we will have even more”, explains Marco Saalfrank, head of continental Europe merchant trading at Axpo.

The company has signed a ten-year agreement for the charter of a vessel with 7,500 cubic meters of capacity, which will be able to refuel with LNG both ship-to-ship and ship-to-truck. The first consists of ship-to-ship bunkering, the second allows the transfer of liquefied gas to land-based tankers which, in turn, transport it by road. The agreement was signed with the Tuscan Gas and Heat, supplier of the technology, and the Genoese shipyard San Giorgio del Porto, which will be the builder of the ship and will build it in its Piombino factory; the owner will instead be a temporary business association between San Giorgio and Gas and Heat. It will be the first use in Europe of the technology for continuous ship-to-truck operations, with a Gas and Heat patent. In the future the unit will also be able to transport bio-LNG and ammonia.

The push of decarbonisation

«We see potential in this activity, necessary to achieve the decarbonisation objectives defined at maritime level, with an expected reduction of up to 30% of greenhouse gases by 2030, and beyond. We see a lack of bunkering vessels in Europe, but also globally: it is a business that we plan to develop”, continues Saalfrank. «LNG supply activities are crucial for the decarbonisation of industry and transport. Liquefied gas is a transition fuel towards other types of fuel for heavy vehicles, ships, aircraft: methanol, ammonia, Saf for aviation. In general, about half of new ships are built with dual-fuel engines: they can use both normal fuel and LNG, to reduce emissions. However, there are still too few stations for refueling with LNG. Furthermore, these ships, which are one twentieth the size of normal gas tankers, can go to ports and transfer LNG from the ship directly to the trucks. In Italy there is a small-scale LNG activity, in small coastal depots, but it is powered by road vehicles arriving mainly from France. With our project we can shorten the route and bring LNG directly to Southern Italy. We start from Naples but we plan to obtain authorizations to operate in other ports as well, to have more flexibility.”

After Naples, Civitavecchia and Savona

«This project allows us to bring LNG to places that are not currently reachable, for example in Southern Italy – explains Ivahoe Romin, general manager of Axpo Italia -. Our country will play a role of primary importance for the group in small scale LNG activities, but we know that the infrastructure is not as developed as that of Spain or Germany. The idea is therefore to keep an agile ship, without the need for land connections, which can move and reach different areas, even the least served ones. We have contacts with various port areas, as well as Naples where the progress of the process to obtain the necessary permits is greater: for example Civitavecchia and Savona”.

Central Italy in the group

«Italy – concludes Romin – is the largest market outside Switzerland and will be able to benefit from the opportunities not only on the renewables front, which the group is developing, but also for new transition technologies such as batteries and hydrogen, for which we have just announced a production project in Abruzzo with Infinite Green Energy. At the same time, investments in small-scale LNG activities will continue, because gas will continue to accompany the transition.”

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