Opuwei: Coastal Carrier Barges Will Address LPG Storage, Distribution Constraints in Nigeria

Opuwei: Coastal Carrier Barges Will Address LPG Storage, Distribution Constraints in Nigeria

Chief Executive Officer, Dateline Energy Services Limited, Mr. Wilson Opuwei in this interview, talked about the Liquefied Petroleum Gas coastal transportation carrier barge project, the partnership with Naval Dockyard Limited amongst other issues. Peter Uzoho presents the excerpts:

Can you provide an overview of the LPG Coastal Transportation Carrier Barge project being built in Nigeria? What are the primary goals and objectives of this project?

One of the key objectives of the Lagos kick-off event is not only to document this concept as 100 per cent Nigerian, being first of its kind in Africa, but to promote our Local Content capabilities.

Specifically, showcasing the vast shipbuilding experience, technological expertise, and niche skill-sets domiciled within Naval Dockyard, with whom DESL is collaborating towards utilising their world-class fabrication facility to deliver this venture.

Also our Nigerian technology and designs have been adapted by an international organisation known as Citra Shipbuilders of Indonesia, with whom DESL have entered into agreements for the construction of two units of LNG Carrier Barges, which kick-off ceremony held recently at the GASTECH 2023 International Conference in Singapore.

 That event was witnessed by Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum (Gas); Ambassador Gabriel Aduda, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources; Mr. Farouk Ahmed, Chief Executive of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), amongst other key industry players, thus putting Nigeria in the global gas map as a technology provider.

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

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

As practitioners in the oil and gas industry, we always evaluate and carry out extensive Research and Development (R&D) initiatives, whilst using our experiences as operator to identify some challenges faced within gas development and commercialisation value chain.

These are majorly processing, evacuation, and storages, to which our LPG and LNG carriers would address such evacuation, distribution, and storage constraints, locally and around the African region.

DESL along with our strategic partners are investing towards building, owning and operating a fleet of LPG, LNG/CNG Carrier Badges, virtual pipeline solutions for conveyance of natural and processed gas resources for shuttle and distribution between bigger crafts to storage and off-take facilities as foreign currency earner.

Nigeria has a rapidly growing energy demand. How does DESL’s LPG/LNG carrier barges align with the local energy needs and government initiatives?

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

Our gas carrier barges would 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.

Could you discuss the key features and specifications of the LPG carrier barge? How does it stand out in terms of capacity, safety features, and environmental considerations?

Our barges are designed for the Nigerian waterways, as well as the West African regional coastline, having a draft of 3.5Mtrs, width of 22Mtrs, Length of 100Mtrs. She can get to shallow waters and creeks. We also plan to engage with the Ministry of Blue Economy towards dredging the Inland Water ways so that barges can traverse through to Northern part of Nigeria. 

Safety is a crucial concern in energy transportation. How does DESL plan to ensure the safety and security of the LPG cargo, crew, and the environment during transportation?

DESL 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 HSE compliant, whilst working with the Nigerian Navy to provide Real Time security. Furthermore, the barges are designed to be full proof technologically advanced crafts, and security measures are in place.

What role does technology play in the LPG/LNG carrier barges project? Are there any 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, as even the power generators are fuelled by LPG/CNG.

Developing a project of this scale involves collaborations and partnerships. Can you elaborate on the stakeholders involved in this project, especially your relationship with the Naval Dockyard Limited?

DESL 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 a great Naval Architecture, DESL’s engineering and design team would comprise of engineers from National Engineering and Technical Company (NETCO), Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Shipping, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), amongst 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/LNG transportation involves regulatory compliance and adherence to safety standards. How is DESL addressing these challenges to ensure seamless operations and regulatory approvals?

DESL would not only work with International Classing Agencies which would class and approve every level of our construction, but would also work closely with the NMDPRA towards delivering a world class marine craft out of Nigeria. 

Logistics and infrastructure play a significant role in energy transportation. Could you discuss the logistical aspects of the LPG carrier barge, including loading and unloading processes, and the infrastructure required?

We have ongoing arrangements with gas producing companies including NNPC subsidiaries, and a few local gas off-takers who plan to utilise 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 share insights into the timeline for the project’s completion and commencement of operations? Are there any milestones or significant dates to look forward to?

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

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 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 being adapted around the world

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