Logistics News

Woodside backs Pluto plant gas over diesel

Energy company has national and international plans as GEA makes policy call


Australian energy firm Woodside is making a multimodal gas propulsion play for its Pluto field LNG.

The product will be sourced from its Pluto gas plant at Karratha, in northern Western Australia the company is looking to transport it by truck as well as see it used in mine trucks, amongst other uses.

Woodside already has a truck-loading facility there on the drawing board. 

“Woodside is planning to offer LNG as a fuel in the Pilbara for uses such as mining equipment, locomotives and remote power stations as an alternative to diesel,” a Woodside spokesperson tells ATN.

“The LNG would be transported from Woodside’s existing LNG facilities via a dedicated fleet in a two or three trailer configuration.

“The trailers would be double-walled cryogenic tanker trailers, or double-walled cryogenic Iso-containers on special trailers designed for compliance with transport regulations.

“Woodside expects to start seeking experienced partners shortly to provide the trucking and distribution services.

“The number of trucks is expected to be small initially but grow appreciably as the market for LNG fuels develops.”

Last month, Woodside announced it is participating in a joint study with shipping and mining companies to assess the commercial feasibility of LNG-fuelled iron ore bulk carriers, with the initial study focusing on the capesize class of ships.

This Joint Industry Project will be led by classification body DNV GL and brings together Woodside, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, along with Shanghai Merchant Design and Research Institute (SDARI) and Japanese shipowner Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL).

Woodside CEO Peter Coleman says new regulations from the International Maritime Organisation, restricting the sulphur content of marine fuels from 2020, would make LNG an attractive alternative.

“As Australia’s leading producer of LNG, Woodside is pleased to be working with the mining and shipping industries to explore the potential for LNG fuel use by bulk carriers on the ‘Green Corridor’ trade routes between Australia and China,” Coleman says.

“Woodside has recently taken delivery of the first LNG-fuelled marine support vessel in the southern hemisphere, the Siem Thiima.

“Following the successful introduction of this vessel into our operations, Woodside will assess the viability of further adoption of LNG-fuelling of our vessels.

“We think the trade routes from northern Western Australia are the perfect place to drive the transition to LNG as a marine fuel, with exporting industries in close proximity to world-class LNG supplies.”

Australia already has an operating LNG-powered commercial ship in the Searoad Mersey II, though it plies a shorter route, across Bass Strait, and carries a lighter load.

Woodside notes LNG has carbon emissions up to 25 per cent lower than diesel and 30 per cent lower than heavy fuel oil and emits almost no sulphur or particulates.

Meanwhile, in its pre-Budget submission to the federal government, lobby group Gas Energy Australia (GEA) notes an initiative on the other side of the country.

Queensland company Intelligas has recently developed technology to retrofit a range of mine vehicles including trucks, dozers and shovels with a ‘plug in plug out’ tank and high density compressed natural gas (HDCNG) fuel system.

“Fitting these vehicles with a HDCNG engine not only reduces carbon emissions, but it improves the life of the engine and reduces engine noise. Government policy should support real world innovation that has practical outcomes,” GEA says.

“Australia is one of the largest gas producers in the world. At the same time, it has 10 per cent of the world’s mining activity and some 400,000 Australians and businesses are dependent on off-­grid generation – both still largely dependent on higher polluting and imported diesel, as is up to 30 per cent of the energy used for transport.

“It is also little known to most Australians that we operate some of the largest truck engines in the world.

“Ironically, because the rest of the world does not run things like road trains to the same extent as Australia, there is little demand elsewhere for 15-litre truck engines which are no longer being made overseas.

“However, Australia still needs such large engines for our heavy freight applications which are an ideal platform for lower emitting gaseous fuels where renewables are not a feasible alternative.”

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