Novatek and Tschudi Group return to Norway’s Honningsvåg to transfer LNG

Operations are expected to last for a far shorter window than they did previously.

By Malte Humpert, High North News - March 31, 2020
LNG from Russia’s Arctic is transferred from an ice-class tanker to a conventional tanker near Honningsvåg, Norway on February 19, 2019. (Kystverket / Norwegian Coastal Administration via High North News)

After completing a liquefied natural gas reloading operation in Norwegian waters in 2019, Russian LNG producer Novatek and Norway’s Tschudi shipping company are returning to the waters off Honningsvåg near the Nordkapp for more ship-to-ship transfers.

Between November 2018 and June 2019 the two companies partnered in transferring 123 loads of LNG from specialized Arc7 tanks to conventional LNG carriers. In total, more than 9 million tons of LNG were transferred.

At the time Norway also faced criticism from the United States for aiding Russia in exporting natural gas to Europe. The U.S. State department called Norway’s role counterproductive and said that “at a time when Russian gas comprises a growing proportion of Europe’s energy imports, additional volumes of Russian gas will undercut Europe’s energy diversification efforts.”

The reloading helps Novatek to optimize the use of their expensive-to-operate Arctic carriers and instead transport LNG with more efficient conventional tankers once outside ice-bound waters in the Russian Arctic.

A map shows Novatek’s winter operation delivering LNG from Sabetta to Europe onboard Arc7 carriers or conventional carriers after ship-to-ship transfer off northern Norway. (Malte Humpert / High North News)

Just one more time?

In 2019 Novatek maintained that the operation in Norwegian waters would be a “one off” and it would instead be looking to transfer its cargo in Russian waters off Kildin Island northeast of Murmansk. In the medium term, the company is looking to establish a permanent transshipment terminal near Vidyaevo, also on the Kola peninsula.

For now, however, it appears that Honningsvåg offers a suitable location to continue the transfer of LNG.

High North News first reported last November that Novatek may be looking into returning to Honningsvåg in 2020. These reports were supported by Tschudi receiving an updated operating permit on September 30, 2019. At that time the number of permitted transfers was also increased from 165 to 207 per calendar year, out of which 140 transfers are allowed to be for LNG or similar.

A more limited operation this time?

Tschudi has not made any statements regarding the scope or length of the operation but a notice to seafarers from last month informing about the shipping activity around Honningsvåg states that operations can be expected between March 22 and May 15, a much shorter period than in 2019.

Based on permits by the Norwegian Coastal Administration this year’s operation also appears smaller in scope than last year’s. Unlike last year, when three transshipments occurred simultaneously, Tschudi now states that under normal operations only one reloading would occur at a time. This would limit the possible number of total transshipments Novatek and Tschudi can conduct between now and May.

Like last year, the reloading operation will occur in four designated areas, two in the Sarnesfjord and two in the Kåfjord. The Kystverket requires that the two areas in the Sarnesfjord be used first, unless wind and wave direction favor the locations in Kåfjord. The exact locations were also altered slightly.

LNG tankers are heading for Honningsvåg

The first two LNG tankers have already arrived off the Nordkapp, with at least three more expected in the next two weeks. The Arc7 LNG carrier Vladimir Vize and the conventional tanker Yamal Spirit were in holding positions in “Waiting Area A,” around 40 kilometers north of Honningsvåg, at the time of this writing.

Last year at least 14 tankers were involved in the operation at the same time following a careful choreography to ensure Arc7 tankers and conventional tankers arrived in the area at the same time. Up to six tankers were lying at anchor in the Sarnesfjord and the Kåfjord at one time.