Unlocking the potential of import terminals to a sustainable energy landscape

What role will terminal operators play in the future energy system as we move away from natural gas consumption as we know it?

As Europe charts its course towards a sustainable and resilient energy landscape, three fundamental pillars emerge as non-negotiables: Energy security, energy independence and a clean energy transition. These imperatives are driving policy decisions and shaping the future of the Union.

In a study commissioned by Gas LNG Europe (GLE), we examine the key role of terminal operators in providing security and enabling the greening of Europe's energy supply together with our study partner DNV.

Our results reveal that terminal infrastructure will continue to act as gateways for overseas imports. This strengthens energy security and independence by providing import back-up capacity and ensuring dynamic access to attractive sourcing countries. Terminal infrastructure will also accommodate much needed volumes of renewable and low-carbon gases, leveraging the system value of infrastructure that is already existing to date.

Using a multi-dimensional framework, we highlight the different strengths of seven import carrier pathways in the study, such as conventional LNG with Carbon Capture and Storage or Usage (CCSU), bio-LNG, liquid hydrogen or ammonia. The assessment shows that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for future terminal operations: Different import pathways and operational activities (e.g. loading, serving as carbon hubs) will emerge in the future.

Figure 1: Assessment of import pathways reveal strengths and weaknesses of pathways

We also provide detailed indicative import cost calculations for 2040 for the different pathways, also reflecting uncertainties in cost driver developments.

  • Pathways involving import of conventional LNG and downstream CCUS have relatively low import costs and do not rely on the development of new value chains inside and outside the European Union, apart from the CO2 capture market.
  • Ammonia and liquid hydrogen as carriers of green hydrogen could have similar supply costs in the future - however, the liquid hydrogen pathway has a wider corridor of potential supply cost outcomes due to higher uncertainties in cost developments and technological efficiency improvements.

Importing and converting synthetic LNG to hydrogen will be costly - however, opting for methane (CH4) in end-use, foregoing re-transformation into hydrogen, instead could make synthetic LNG an attractive import option.

Figure 2: 2040 cost estimates show wide range of uncertainty around developments of cost drivers

To unlock the full potential of the terminals' contribution to achieving a future-fit energy system, we identify a set of policy recommendations.

Our study partner DNV complements this work by providing an outlook on the EU market for natural, renewable and low-carbon gases and a techno-economic assessment of the current terminal infrastructure for the import of renewable and low-carbon gases.

Click here to read the full report: Securing & Greening Energy for Europe: The Role of Terminal Operators