The growing global liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade is helping to expand the market for floating storage and regasification units (FSRU).

A unit of Royal Dutch Shell plc deployed its first floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility, Prelude, at a field offshore Western Australia. According to Shell, “FLNG technology can unlock gas resources from underwater gas fields previously uneconomic or too challenging to reach.”

Global demand for natural gas could rise by more than half by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency. Many natural gas resources are located in offshore fields, but geographic, technical and economic limitations make a number of these challenging to develop, according to Shell officials.

“FLNG technology is designed to overcome these challenges. It is complementary to conventional onshore LNG as it helps accelerate the development of gas resources to meet the world’s growing demand.”

Black & Veatch (BV), which has worked in the LNG sector for half a century, recently delivered a regasification system for barge-based floating LNG, partnering with Wison Offshore & Marine Ltd.

The FSRU, with a regasification capacity of up to 600 MMcf/d was delivered late last year from Wison’s Nantong, China, shipyard to Exmar, which has a customer under contract beginning at mid-year, but is not disclosing the name or the geographic location for the FSRU’s operations.

“The vaporized LNG will either be used to supply a power plant, provide gas to a natural gas pipeline for industrial and residential use, or a combination of the two,” a BV spokesperson said.

Since the first FSRU began service in 2005 the sector has grown to 25 units in 19 countries, said BV’s Sara O’Dell, oil and gas project manager.

“There are additional FSRUs that are not currently fixed as well as another 40-plus vessels planned to be in operation by 2020,” she told NGI, adding that the three main players in the FSRU market are Excelerate Energy LP, Golar LNG Ltd. and Hoegh LNG Partners LP. The companies own a combined 22 FSRUs. Charter periods vary from five to 15 years, with typical contracts of 10-15 years, O’Dell said.

Last year, The Woodlands, TX-based Excelerate struck an agreement with Singapore-based Summit Power International Pte Ltd. for an FSRU. Summit is developing the Meghnaghat II combined-cycle power plant. To make gas available for its projects, Summit LNG Terminal Co. signed an FSRU time charter party agreement with Excelerate for 15 years.

In July 2016, Excelerate struck agreements to construct and operate the first LNG import terminal in Bangladesh. The company has long aspired to develop floating LNG capacity in the United States, but it withdrew plans to build the Lavaca Bay LNG project on the Texas Gulf Coast in September 2015.

According to Brian Songhurst, senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Institute of Energy Studies, Excelerate, Golar and Hoegh have half of the 10 FSRUs currently under construction worldwide.