Uniper is set to sign a 20-year time-charter contract for its planned Q-Max sized floating storage and regasification unit at Wilhelmshaven this quarter.

The move comes as the trader forges ahead with what looks set to become Germany’s first LNG-import terminal.

Niels Fenzl, who is vice president for transportation and terminals for subsidiary Uniper Global Commodities (UGC) with responsibility for shipping, operations, regasification and small-scale business, said the specification for the 263,000-cbm FSRU is about to be finalised.

He added that the approval process with the German authorities and the marketing of the terminal’s capacity has also started.

MOU signed

UGC, which is acting as the facilitator of the Wilhelmshaven project, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with MOL to order and own the FSRU. The expectation is that the Japanese shipowner will sign a newbuilding contract for the unit this quarter so the FSRU will be ready to start work at the end of 2022.

Fenzl, who was speaking to TradeWinds at last week’s LNG2019 meeting in Shanghai, said: “The challenge is to get all contracts lined up at the right moment in time so that everything comes together.”

An impression of the Wilhelmshaven FSRU Photo: Uniper

UGC will be a shareholder in the new import facility entity, LNG Terminal Wilhelmshaven.

He said the logic of opting for a Q-Max sized FSRU is based on the facility being a multi-user terminal with two to three users, where more storage capacity will allow for smoother operations.

The new 10 billion cubic metre per annum send-out capacity terminal will also be equipped with five truck-loading bays and Uniper has signed an MOU with Titan LNG to ensure a good commercial and technical interface for marine bunkering.

Uniper tripled the number of LNG cargoes it traded last year and doubled its shipping fleet.

The company traded 130 firm cargoes comprising around eight million tonnes in 2018, along with 20 flexible cargoes, and expects to trade at least 100 this year as a baseload.

Expanding portfolio

Uniper’s LNG portfolio is expanding, with it buying 900,000 tonnes per annum from Freeport LNG’s train 1 in the US, five million tonnes per annum from the yet-to-sanction Goldboro LNG project along with Algerian, Nigerian and other traded volumes.

The company has fixed two LNG newbuildings from MOL under what it terms transportation agreements. The 179,900-cbm LNG Schneeweisschen (built 2018) has been fixed for 20 years and currently sublet to Cheniere Energy, while a second newbuilding was contracted this year under a 10-year deal.

Uniper has also fixed another two vessels — the 173,400-cbm Flex Endeavour (built 2018), which is currently sublet to Novatek, and the 170,200-cbm Velikiy Novgorod (built 2014) — on short term business.

Fenzl said: “We look constantly at LNG shipping. We are one of the few players in the market that considers LNG shipping as an own commodity.”

“One part is the [LNG] portfolio where we see it is growing, which means that over time we will need additional shipping capacity.

“The pure shipping trading element — we monitor quite cautiously on where we feel it makes sense to take on additional ship, sublet or stay out of the market. That is something that we regularly review.”

Downstream, Uniper has regasification capacity at the Gate LNG terminal in the Netherlands and the UK’s Grain LNG, along with access to Spanish facilities, and is expanding its small-scale LNG trucking business.