British Columbia (BC) is preparing to launch the first floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) filling station on the Pacific coast of North America for ocean vessels at Vancouver, according to province officials.

Premier John Horgan announced an agreement with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and gas distribution company FortisBC to develop harbor LNG service for merchant marine fleets.

The arrangement includes a C$25,000 ($18,750) provincial government grant to advance a study of a planned LNG marine refueling hub that the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) accounting firm has done for FortisBC.

No date was fixed to start the floating LNG gas station. But BC Trade Minister Bruce Ralston predicted LNG-fueled container, cruise and auto carrier ships could begin arriving at Vancouver in 2020. FortisBC now supplies LNG to seven regional ferries for passengers and freight from a land terminal.

“Global demand is expected to exceed 9 million metric tons of LNG annually by 2025,” or 1.2 Bcf/d, Ralston said. “BC should be ready to get some of that business.”

Industry forecasts cited by provincial officials projected growth in maritime LNG fuel use to more than 35 million metric tons/year, or 4.6 Bcf/d by 2035, as vessels are weaned off bunker oil to obey sulfur and carbon emissions rules of the International Maritime Organization.

FortisBC said compared to bunker oil, its marine LNG fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 26% and achieves a 95% cut in air contaminants such as nitrogen oxides and particulates.