Florida's Ports Lead the Way in Switch to Natural Gas

The JAX LNG terminal (file image courtesy Southern Company)

Published Jan 16, 2020 4:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Florida's ports are leading the way in the transition to natural gas as an alternative to conventional fuel, according to a new report by the Florida Ports Council and the Florida Natural Gas Association. 

“The rapid expansion of the natural gas industry and the alternative fuel market provides an exciting opportunity for Florida seaports to expand their use of natural gas, creating economic and environmental benefits for the state," said Doug Wheeler, Florida Ports Council president and CEO. “Our ports are in a unique position to capitalize on their economic strength and are on the leading edge nationally of LNG for cargo and cruise vessels."

As a leading example, the port of Jacksonville (Jaxport) has the largest LNG bunkering operation at any U.S. port. At present, the only other American port that is similarly equipped is Port Fourchon, Louisiana, where OSV operator Harvey Gulf built a small bunkering terminal for its own LNG-fueled offshore vessels. 

Jaxport's LNG facilities include two terminals, JAX LNG - serving TOTE Maritime's two LNG-fueled container ships on the Puerto Rico run - and Eagle LNG, which serves Crowley's two LNG-fueled con/ro ships on the same route. Eagle LNG also provides liquefied natural gas by the containerload for customers in Puerto Rico, with Crowley handling shipping and logistics. Together, Eagle and JAX LNG have a combined capacity of about 1.9 million gallons per day. PortMiami, Port Tampa Bay, Port Canaveral and other ports that are capable of handling ISO containers are also ready to receive LNG delivered by truck or rail, according to the council.

LNG bunkering activity will likely pick up in Florida because of the state's leading position in the cruise industry. Many next-generation cruise ships are being built with LNG propulsion, with 26 LNG-powered vessels due for delivery by 2026. To accommodate this shift, Florida’s biggest cruise ports - including PortMiami, Port Everglades, and the Port of Palm Beach - are planning to invest in new fueling infrastructure. Port Canaveral has already begun these investments and will soon welcome a new liquefied natural gas bunkering barge, the Q-LNG 4000, which will refuel the new Carnival Cruise Line vessel Mardi Gras - the first fully LNG-powered cruise ship in North America.