• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Smaller barges can mitigate Nigeria’s LPG distribution challenges – Opuwei

Smaller barges can mitigate Nigeria’s LPG distribution challenges – Opuwei

Dateline Energy Services Limited (DESL), an indigenous player in the upstream sub-sector of Nigerian oil and gas, recently signed a partnership agreement with the Naval Dockyard Limited for the construction of a Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) coastal transportation carrier barge at the Naval Dockyard Complex in Lagos.

At completion, the barge will serve as a carrier of LPG from the production facilities to the storage facilities, and to serve as a shuttle that takes gas from smaller vessels to bigger crafts that are located deeper in the coastal water.

On the sideline of the contract signing event, Wilson Opuwei, chief executive officer of Dateline Energy Services Limited shared with Amaka Anagor-Ewuzie, the details of the LPG carrier barge project, implications for the nation’s shipping and oil industries among other issues.

Can you give an overview of the LPG coastal carrier barge project being built in Nigeria? What are your primary goals with this project?

One of the key objectives of the Lagos kickoff event is not only to document this concept as a 100 percent Nigerian, being the first of its kind in Africa, but to promote our Local Content capabilities, specifically, showcasing the vast shipbuilding experience, technological expertise, and niche skills sets domiciled within the Nigerian Navy vis-à-vis the Naval Dockyard, with whom Dateline Energy Services is collaborating to utilise their world-class fabrication facility to deliver the LPG carrier barge.

Read also: Gas to play a key role in Africa’s energy mix  NLNG

Also, our Nigerian technology and designs have been adopted by an international organisation known as Citra Shipbuilders of Indonesia, with whom Dateline Energy Services Ltd has entered into agreements for the construction of two units of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) carrier barges. The kickoff ceremony of this project held recently at the GASTECH 2023 International Conference in Singapore, an event that was witnessed by Ekperikpe Ekpo, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum (Gas); Gabriel Tanimu Aduda, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; Faruk Ahmed, chief executive of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Development Agency (NMDPRA), among other key industry players, thus putting Nigeria in the global gas map as a technology provider.

Furthermore, we plan to support the government’s effort towards creating jobs and career opportunities for our people, especially for long-term industrial activities such as these.

What motivated DESL to invest in the development of LPG/LNG carrier barges for coastal transportation? What market trends influenced this business decision?

As experts in the oil and gas industry, we always evaluate and carry out extensive Research and Development initiatives, while using our experiences as operators to identify some challenges faced within the gas development and commercialisation value chain, which is mostly processing, evacuation, and storage, to which our LPG and LNG carriers would address such evacuation, distribution, and storage constraints, locally and around the African region.

Dateline Energy Services along with our strategic partners are investing towards building, owning, and operating a fleet of LPG, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) carrier barges, virtual pipeline solutions for conveying natural and processed gas resources for shuttle and distribution between bigger crafts to storage and off-take facilities that would earn foreign currency for the country.

As a country with a growing energy demand, how will the DESL’s planned LPG/LNG carrier barges align with the local energy needs and government initiatives?

As of today, most of the LPG consumed locally is produced and exported through international vessels, then re-imported into the country before being stored and distributed by a few companies.

This is why our gas carrier barges want to mitigate the domestic distribution challenges, as one barge can carry up to 4000 m3 of LPG, which is equivalent to more than 300 trucks by road, and can provide for the riverine communities, then traverse the northern part of Nigeria through the inland waterways quicker.

Our midterm plan is to build a fleet of LPG, CNG, and LNG carrier barges, with a view to supporting the activities of the bigger marine crafts, as well as the storage facilities, and exporters.

Read also: FAAC queries NNPC over $55m NLNG dividend

What are the key features of the LPG carrier barge? How does it stand out in terms of capacity, safety, and environmental considerations?

Our barges are designed for the Nigerian waterways, as well as the West African regional coastline, having a draft of 3.5 meters, a width of 22 meters and a Length of 100 meters. This means that such a barge can go to shallow waters and creeks. We also plan to engage with the Ministry of Blue Economy towards dredging the inland waterways so that barges can traverse through to Northern part of Nigeria.

Safety is a crucial concern in the transportation of petroleum products. How does DESL plan to ensure the safety and security of the LPG cargo and crew in transit?

Dateline Energy Services is a safety-conscious organisation, having won the Award of SHELL Global 20 million LTI Free Man-Hours, Net Goal Zero Company in 2013, which was the first of its kind in Nigeria, we are Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) compliant, while working with the Nigerian Navy to provide real-time security. Furthermore, the barges are designed to be full proof of technologically advanced crafts, and security measures are in place.

What role does technology play in the LPG/LNG carrier barges project? Are there innovative technologies or practices being implemented to enhance efficiency, monitoring, and risk management?

These barges are designed as clean energy solutions and technologically advanced equipment, having considered environmental and related factors such that even the power generators are fueled using LPG and CNG.

Can you elaborate on the stakeholders involved in this project, especially your relationship with the Naval Dockyard Limited?

Dateline Energy Services operates a consortium-type structure wherein all parties involved would be adding value to the process. So, aside from partnering with the Naval Dockyard Limited, which has great Naval Architects, DESL’s engineering and design team comprised of engineers from National Engineering and Technical Company (NETCO), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Shipping, Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), among other stakeholders who we expect to bring their expertise to bear in our final designs. Our aim is to have a vessel that takes care of operational challenges.

LPG and LNG transportation involves regulatory compliance and adherence to safety standards. How will DESL address these to ensure seamless operations and regulatory approvals?

Dateline Energy Services would not only work with International Classing Agencies that would class and approve every level of our construction but would also work closely with the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency (NMDPRA) towards delivering a world-class marine craft out of Nigeria.

Read also: Relief for gas prices as Chevron Australia LNG strike ends

Logistics and infrastructure play a significant role in energy transportation. What are the logistics for the LPG carrier barge especially the loading and unloading processes?

We have ongoing arrangements with gas-producing companies including NNPC subsidiaries, and a few local gas off-takers who plan to use our barges. Also, our barges will serve as a major means of shuttle and distribution for an international company that is building a coastal LPG storage depot.

Are there any future expansion plans or considerations for similar projects in other regions beyond Lagos?

Definitely, our midterm plan is to own a fleet of LPG, and LNG carrier barges, however, upon our announcement we have been getting requests from clients ordering for us to build similar, even as we plan to unveil the first prototype by December 2023.

Can you give insights into the timelines for the project’s completion and commencement of operations?

Our target completion period is 14 months from when we lay the keel, hopefully by December 2023, by that time our ordered steel would have arrived at the Naval Dockyard. However, our team would be working to perfect the engineering and design modifications.

The participation of Nigerian ship-owners in the Cabotage trade and crude oil lifting has remained low despite the Cabotage and Local Content Acts. How worried are you about this?

We decided to engage the maritime and shipping stakeholders so that we can get a first-hand view of their experiences and challenges, and also engage alongside towards finding lasting solutions to some of the issues.

Read also: Natural gas prices surge as workers strike at Australian LNG plants

Do you think that Nigeria has the capacity to man coastal vessels and coastal barges as required by the Cabotage Act of 2003?

Nigeria has more than enough maritime personnel and professionals with the capacity to man any vessel or undertake technologically complex operations. We can also pride ourselves that right here in the Naval Dockyard, we have some of the best Naval Architects whose designs are now been adopted around the world.