With a focus on providing infrastructure solutions to supply new markets with natural gas, Houston-based Pilot LNG LLC has filed with federal regulators to build in Texas what it said would be the Gulf Coast’s first dedicated liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker terminal.

The proposed Galveston LNG Bunker Port, to be sited on Pelican Island, would be designed around floating liquefaction (FLNG) technology engineered and constructed by Pilot partner Wison Offshore & Marine Inc.

The FLNG port, said CEO Jonathan Cook, would provide LNG to one of the largest port complexes in the United States. Pilot expects to make a final investment decision in the second half of 2021, with operations targeted in 2024.

The proposed port “would provide the necessary infrastructure to supply the growing market for LNG marine fuel, substantially reducing marine emissions and cutting shippers’ fuel costs at the same time.”

The Galveston Bay, adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel (HSC), encompasses the industrial ports of Houston, Texas City and Galveston and is considered an “ideal location” to add LNG bunkering infrastructure, Cook said. The HSC, considered the nation’s fourth busiest cruise terminal, had more than 10,500 deepwater vessel visits in 2019, and more than 133,000 tug/tow movements, Pilot noted.

Wison, meanwhile, has developed numerous floating solutions across the LNG value chain, said the company’s North American head Vivian Li.

As international regulators tighten emissions standards, the maritime industry has increasingly turned to LNG as a marine fuel because of its lower emissions profile and cost competitiveness. Growth in LNG marine fuel use has been significant, particularly in Europe and Asia.

Malaysia’s state-owned Petroliam Nasional Berhad, aka Petronas, is seeking to become one of Southeast Asia’s LNG bunkering hubs. A subsidiary last October chartered a 7,500 cubic meter bunker vessel.

In September, natural gas giant Qatar Petroleum and the No. 1 gas seller, Royal Dutch Shell plc, said they were partnering to provide global marine bunkering services, calling them a “promising solution for the shipping industry in light of a continuously evolving regulatory environment.”

Meanwhile, Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Co. signed a memorandum of understanding with Chart Industries Inc. to develop small-scale LNG solutions that include bunkering for marine vessels in the Philippines.

However, more infrastructure is needed in the United States to facilitate the continued global adoption of LNG marine fuel. JAX LNG LLC, 50% owned by Dominion Energy, in 2018 began operating a second waterfront LNG facility in Florida to conduct ship-to-ship bunkering operations.

Eagle LNG Partners Jacksonville LLC also has proposed building and operating a terminal and export facility in Jacksonville, FL.