The liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal of El Musel, in Gijón, has received its first ship today. The Cool Racer with a capacity of 174,000 m3, will carry out a first unloading, necessary to complete the final technical tests before the commercial start-up of the terminal. This unloading operation will have a duration between 72 and 90 hours.
Technical start-up process
As part of the usual technical process for this type of start-up operation, the initial liquid nitrogen cooling of the infrastructure was carried out prior to the vessel’s arrival. LNG, coming from the unloading of the ship, replaces the inert gas (nitrogen) inside the tanks. In this way, the tanks are progressively cooled to cryogenic temperatures, when they reach -160ºC, LNG can be stored. LNG, which gradually displaces nitrogen, ends up being the only liquid contained in LNG storage tanks.
Before pre-cooling with liquid nitrogen, the operations prior to the unloading of the LNG carrier were carried out, including the completion of the commissioning of all terminal equipment.
The unloading process is carried out as follows: access and safe mooring of the vessel to the berth, connection and tightness tests, connection of the LNG transfer arms, cooling of the unloading arms and the rest of the equipment, and flow of the LNG to the tanks. Once the unloading has been completed, the loading arms shall be safely disconnected.
The terminal already employs 53 people and generates around 100 additional indirect jobs. During the start-up phase, professionals specialised in this type of process were brought in from other Enagás terminals. The company is present in 9 LNG terminals as owner or shareholder and operator.
Start of commercial operations
Moreover, yesterday was the deadline for shippers to show their interest in the binding phase of the process, which will end in July with the allocation of long-term logistics services, and operations are scheduled to start with the arrival at the terminal of the first commercial LNG carrier in the coming weeks, once the terminal’s technical tests are completed.
The logistics services offered for this infrastructure are LNG unloading, storage and loading operations. Under the regulated access regime, El Musel terminal will only offer minimal regasification service for the proper management of the terminal, as well as the truck loading service.
The start-up of El Musel is a milestone for the start of commercial operations of the terminal, which is part of the Government’s More Energy Security Plan, and will strengthen the security of energy supply in Europe.
The Gijón terminal could contribute up to 8 bcm (billion cubic metres) of LNG capacity per year to Europe’s security of energy supply. It will allow the berthing of vessels of between 50,000 and 266,000 m3, has two tanks of 150,000 m3 of LNG storage capacity, two truck loading bays with a capacity to load a maximum of 9 GWh/d and a maximum emission capacity of 800,000 Nm3/h.
On 28 February, Enagás and Reganosa signed an agreement whereby Enagás acquired Reganosa’s 130 km gas pipeline network and Reganosa 25% of El Musel terminal. This operation will make it possible to take advantage of their synergies and work together on the services offered by the terminal and on new possibilities for collaboration to strengthen security of supply and advance the decarbonisation targets of Spain and Europe.
Final approval phase
El Musel terminal received the Certificate of Start-up for Testing by the Industry and Energy Area of the Government Delegation in the Principality of Asturias on 9 June, following the Administrative Authorisation for its start-up by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge - Ministerial Order TED/578/2023, of 7 June - and the approval of the special economic regime for its logistical use by the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) on 17 February.
To complete the entire process, the only thing that remains to be done is to obtain the Certificate of Final Start-up from the Industry and Energy Department of the Government Delegation in the Principality of Asturias, which will be issued once the technical tests of the terminal have been completed.