Seapath and Pilot JV on First LNG Bunker Facility in US Gulf

by Admin
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Seapath, a maritime subsidiary of the Libra Group, and Pilot LNG LLC, a Houston-based clean energy solutions company, have jointly announced the establishment of a joint venture dedicated to developing, constructing, and operating the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering facility in the Galveston Bay area.

Commencing operations in mid-2026, this new facility will supply fuel for LNG-powered vessels. With an initial investment of approximately $150 million, Pilot and Seapath’s LNG bunkering facility will leverage their combined expertise to serve the needs of a critical global and U.S. trade corridor. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, the Greater Houston waterways generated over $906 billion in economic value to the U.S. in 2022, and the Greater Houston area was named the top U.S. port by tonnage in a 2023 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Led by LNG industry veterans with extensive experience in terminal and marine operations, Pilot’s mission is to deliver LNG to both new and existing markets across the United States, including fuel/bunkering terminals and associated infrastructure. This collaboration marks the first step in a series of planned strategic investments by Seapath and Pilot to establish a network of LNG facilities in underserved areas of the U.S.

“Seapath is dedicated to investing across the marine infrastructure space and will provide strong financial backing to Pilot’s LNG bunker projects,” said Jonathan Cook, CEO of Pilot. “We look forward to working with Seapath in delivering this facility in a timely manner based on the extensive development work already completed. This project will meet the significant needs for LNG fuel, which also supports ongoing decarbonization across the marine industry.”

Seapath, a U.S. company led by Merchant Mariners and former service members, was founded in response to the need for significant investments in the U.S. maritime economy. While LNG bunkering infrastructure has been developing overseas, its growth in the United States has been comparatively slower. Beyond this facility, the company has strategic plans to invest in innovative projects within maritime industrial facilities and U.S. Jones Act vessels.

“The infrastructure under development will provide LNG to a growing market seeking cleaner marine fuel, particularly as customers look for economical ways to comply with tightening emissions regulations, including regulations set by the IMO in 2020,” said Seapath CEO Greg Otto.  “We are pleased to be working with a first-class team in Pilot and with some of the leading ports in the United States to bring this critical LNG bunkering infrastructure to the Gulf Coast region where there is high demand for it. Thanks to our valuable partnership with Pilot, we look forward to developing more of these much-needed facilities in ports across the United States.”

As the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) advances its global strategy for maritime decarbonization, LNG has emerged as a cleaner and more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional marine fuels. It has the potential to significantly reduce vessel emissions, with the ability to cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 80-90% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% compared to heavy fuel oil. LNG’s unique physical and chemical properties, including its inability to ignite in liquid form, make it a safer alternative to traditional marine fuels. Recent statistics from Clarkson Research indicate that approximately 60 percent of all new vessels ordered since 2022 are powered by alternative fuels, with roughly 80 percent of those orders being LNG-powered vessels, including those used by major cruise lines and container vessel operators.

Seapath is one of three maritime subsidiaries of the Libra Group, a privately owned business group with operations in nearly 60 countries across six business sectors, including maritime and renewable energy. The Libra Group’s other maritime holdings include Lomar Shipping, a global shipping company with a fleet of more than 40 vessels, and Americraft Marine, which owns and operates a Jones Act Shipyard in Palatka, Florida, specializing in constructing crew transfer vessels for the offshore-wind industry and traditional inland-marine assets such as tugboats and barges.

“Libra Group is committed to advancing innovation across our sectors, from maritime, to aerospace, to renewable energy and more. As a global organization, we will harness insights from across our network to bolster the uptake of more sustainable technologies to advance our sectors while identifying potential applications across our other sectors,” said Manos Kouligkas, CEO of Libra Group. “Adoption of more sustainable fuels is critical to future-proofing our industries against a rapidly changing ecosystem. We will continue to support the transition to greener energy solutions, and we look forward to following Seapath’s work to evolve the U.S. maritime industrial sector.”

Pilot and Seapath intend to continue their ongoing front-end engineering and design development for their projects in the third and fourth quarters of 2023, with plans to file applications with the necessary federal and state agencies for permitting, site selection, construction, and operation of the small-scale LNG terminal for marine fuel. Details regarding the Final Investment Decision (FID) for their project are anticipated to be announced by the second half of 2024.

Seapath is dedicated to advancing America’s infrastructure and competitiveness. Seapath focuses on maritime industrial technology, port real estate, Jones Act vessels, and broader areas of maritime need.

Libra Group is a privately owned, global business group that encompasses 30 operating entities: 20 businesses predominately focused on aerospace, renewable energy, maritime, real estate, hospitality, and diversified investments with assets and operations in nearly 60 countries.

Pilot LNG is a clean energy solutions company focused on delivering liquefied natural gas (LNG) to new and existing markets by developing and operating LNG import and LNG fuel / LNG bunkering terminals and related infrastructure. The company aims to establish LNG terminal and logistics opportunities worldwide to meet growing natural gas demand by supplying clean-burning LNG to the rapidly expanding fleet of LNG-fuel vessels. 

Source Pilot LNG