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Interview with Pedro Amaral Frazão, Director, Grupo Sousa

In March 2014, Grupo Sousa / Gáslink implemented a LNG Virtual Pipeline between Portugal mainland and Madeira Island. How has this innovative project impacted the country’s energy supply?

In March 2014,  Grupo Sousa / Gáslink implemented a LNG Virtual Pipeline between Portugal mainland and Madeira Island. How has this innovative project impacted the country’s energy supply? 

This innovative and pioneering project enabled the introduction of a new energy source in Madeira Island, presently accounting for over 12% of the total electricity produced since 2014. Depending on the availability of renewables and the annual energy mix, consumption indicators reveal that natural gas may reach 25% of the total supply, contributing decisively for clean fuels to take the lead for electricity production with a footprint over 50%. 

Diversity and safety of supply, together with lower emissions, is of strategic value for this ultra-peripheral region, where tourism plays an important role in regional economy. Grupo Sousa’s LNG virtual pipeline also extends to Portugal mainland, where this operation accounts for nearly one third of the ISO containers currently being filled at Portugal Sines LNG Terminal per year.

This project demonstrates that innovative small-scale LNG logistics by means of “virtual pipelines” are viable and sustainable solutions for remote locations, where dedicated natural gas infrastructure does not exist, using existing capabilities (roads, sea transportation and marine terminals) in opposition to huge investments, not affordable in face of the low consumption profiles. The introduction of LNG is also a leverage for further applications, namely for industries, shipping and vehicles.      

The participation of our partner GALP, and also REN (Sines LNG Terminal operator), along with their continuous technical support for this operation, has played a key role in achieving the results so far.    

For the project, Gáslink operates its own fleet of cryogenic ISO containers. How is this method revolutionising LNG transportation in Portugal and is it a model that can be rolled out in other countries?

The really revolutionising characteristics of our project are the logistics optimisation provided by the integration of several Grupo Sousa companies involved in the operation, in particular: as ship owner, shipping agent, port operator, road transporter, maintenance and overall coordination under the umbrella of Gáslink.   

Given the complexity of such operation, using a dedicated LNG satellite plant and a fleet of 55 LNG ISO containers, customisation has been implemented by specific standard operating procedures developed by Grupo Sousa/Gáslink, addressing all key areas of intervention: organisational, administrative, safety, security, maintenance and operations. Extensive on-the-job training, industry’s best standards and practices, and continuous improvement methodologies are in place with an impressive track record of over 4,300 operations without incidents or accidents.   

Grupo Sousa is confident that this model can be successfully replicated in other remote regions both in island or distant locations inland.  

What have been the biggest challenges that you’ve had to overcome for this pioneering project? 

Leading the way to introduce LNG on an island with such level of consumption (over 1,200 operations per year) represents a major challenge as no other player worldwide was doing this in 2014 before we initiated it. Even today, over three years in, this operation represents a permanent challenge due to the intenivee use of our assets.

The continuous improvement of methodologies in place, the robust monitoring, immediate analysis and assessment of every single operational episode, and swift decisions, in parallel with Grupo Sousa’s in-house capabilities and expertise in all fields of this pioneering project, constitute a tremendous competitive advantage.                        

You are speaking at the upcoming 18th CWC World LNG Summit & Awards Evening, which is coming to Lisbon for the first time in November this year. What does the move to Lisbon signify for you, as a Portuguese company, and what will be your message to the audience? 

The 18th CWC World LNG Summit & Awards Evening taking place in Lisbon shows the increasing importance of Portugal as a LNG key player in the Iberian Peninsula. Grupo Sousa intends to share with the audience our experience about this innovative and pioneering operation for the benefit of all participants.

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