When it comes to its dual-fuel fleet, US-based Harvey Gulf International Marine (HGIM) is modifying its operational strategy, refitting battery-hybrid modules on its five dual-fuel PSVs to deliver “lower emissions and lower fuel cost savings to our customers,” as HGIM chief executive Shane Guidry told me.
The move has come despite capex costs estimated at between US$5M-US$12M more for an OSV to be fitted with battery-hybrid propulsion than traditional propulsion systems. To date, HGIM has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its dual-fuel platform supply vessels and another US$25M to build its LNG bunkering facility in Port Fourchon in Louisiana.
Why? Setting aside the long-term economic benefits and environmental rationale for refitting a fleet with battery-hybrid modules along with the already flexible dual-fuel operating profile, HGIM has a clear and practical business case for incurring the added up-front costs.
The move to hybrid dovetails with its plans to go global. HGIM has made no secret of its ambitions to expand its global footprint through acquisitions and the opening of corporate offices around the world.
Five years ago, it established a local presence in Mexico by opening offices in Ciudad del Carmen for Harvey Gulf International Marine de Mexico S.A.P.I. de C.V. to oversee its Mexican and Latin American offshore activities and it has registered several of its vessels under the Mexican flag.
HGIM is also in the process of opening an office in Guyana and has reportedly committed to hiring and training local mariners.
Besides Mexico and Guyana, HGIM has won contracts in Trinidad and Suriname and is also bidding on work in Mozambique, Angola, Senegal, Israel, Ghana and Nigeria.
With local content and local employment — so-called "in-country value" — becoming increasingly important as part of contractual arrangements with internationally state-run oil companies, establishing local offices and local partnerships will become commonplace in the offshore energy sector.
This hybrid retrofitted, flexibly fuelled and internationally focused strategy is defined by steady – rather than explosive – expansion. HGIM is taking steps to give its business an array of options and its fleet an array of operational configurations, which comes with its share of challenges.
In addition to the extra capex costs, LNG-fuelled OSV fleets are hampered by the lack of available LNG bunkering facilities. Some 16 years after the first LNG-fuelled OSV was built in Norway, there are still only 25 dual-fuel platform supply vessels in operation.
But by refitting its dual-fuel PSVs with battery-hybrid modules, HGIM is maximising the vessels’ operational flexibility and efficiency, allowing them to support offshore platforms anywhere in the world, whether LNG bunkering is available or not.
And the future path for LNG-fuelled OSVs is still open. Post-2020, as LNG bunkering infrastructure grows to support the increasing demand from other types of vessels that use LNG as a marine fuel, the move could prove particularly prescient.
HGIM’s flexibility increases its security by way of allowing it to cater for multiple potential outcomes still possible given the complexity of the fuels market. Additionally, by establishing a local presence and increasing local content and employment, HGIM is maximising its contractual opportunities. Those are two strategies that every OSV owner can benefit from.