Work under progress for launching LNG Barges on Ganga

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The Ministry of Shipping reviewed the follow up action on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and for providing an LNG based alternative, fuel efficient and environment-friendly mode of transport on National Waterways, last week. The MoU was signed at the Maritime India Summit in Mumbai in April, 2016 with the objective of promoting the usage of LNG Barges on National Waterway-1(Ganga). IWAI and Petronet LNG have been asked to plan and coordinate their work plans in a manner such that LNG Barges could commence navigation on NW1 by December 2018.

Both the options of switching over from the existing diesel to LNG barges and introduction of new LNG barges are being considered. Although the switching over from traditional fuel (diesel) to LNG will entail an initial capital expenditure, the investment is likely to be recovered in four to five years at current prices. Higher fuel efficiency and negligible pollution are major attendant benefits of the new fuel. As per the present pricing, operating LNG barges will be much cheaper than diesel as fuel. LNG Barges would be a step towards achieving the commitments made by the country at COP 21.

Petronet LNG Limited will design, construct and operate LNG unloading, storage, bunkering and reloading facilities on the National Waterways (NWs). Four of the top public sector companies in the hydrocarbon sector of the country, viz. ONGC, Indian Oil Corporation, BPCL and GAIL own 50% of the equity in Petronet LNG, while 10% is held by GDF SUEZ and the balance 40% is held by the public. Action has already been initiated for preparing Detailed Feasibility Report and it is expected to be completed by December, 2016. Petronet LNG Ltd plans to set up a base depot at Haldia and fuelling stations at Sahibganj (Jharkhand), Patna (Bihar) and Ghazipur (UP).

IWAI will facilitate the switchover of bunker fuel from diesel to LNG by persuading the barge owners and the operators about the benefits of LNG. IWAI will also provide land, wherever possible, for the setting up of LNG storage and will develop jetties to facilitate bunkering. It is pertinent to note that there is a potential for 17.5 MT of cargo on NW-1 by 2020. IWAI was requested to explore the feasibility of seeking funding for the introduction of LNG Barges under the Ganga Action Plan. As National Waterways in Goa offer immense opportunities in transportation of iron ore and are closer to LNG storage facilities, the introduction of LNG Barges is being considered for that region too. The agencies responsible for framing and enforcing regulations related to the navigation of LNG Barges have been asked to study best practices and regulations on the subject for implementation in India.