(EnergyAsia, September 26 2011, Monday) — Dutch oil and chemicals logistics giant Royal Vopak is targeting to grow its liquefied natural gas (LNG) portfolio with the opening of its first newly constructed terminal in the Netherlands and the acquisition of an established terminal in Mexico.

At a ceremony last Friday, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands opened the ‘Gas Access To Europe’ (Gate) terminal on the Maasvlakte in Rotterdam. Jointly conceived and developed by NV Nederlandse Gasunie and Vopak, the terminal will serve as an independent distribution point for companies to import and trade LNG to help meet the rising demand for natural gas in northwestern Europe.

Vopak views the 800-million-euro facility as an important investment that will “increase the security of supplies and enable new players to enter the European gas market.” (US$1=0.74 euro).

Comprising three tanks with a total storage capacity of 540,000 cubic metres, two jetties and an area for the regasification process, Gate is capable of initially handling 12 billion cubic metres (bcm) of LNG a year, sufficient to meet a quarter of annual Dutch gas consumption. Vopak said it is planning to expand the terminal’s annual throughput capacity to 16 billion cbm by adding a fourth tank.

The terminal has already begun receiving shipped cargoes of LNG that are regasified for distribution through the Dutch gas transport network and delivered to consumers in northwestern Europe. Five companies, Denmark’s DONG Energy, Austria’s EconGas, Germany’s E.ON Ruhrgas, Switzerland’s RWE Supply & Trading and the Netherlands’ Eneco, have committed to long-term contracts to use the terminal.

Conceived in 2005, the project dovetails with Dutch and European energy policies, and is built on the pillars of strategic diversification of gas supplies, sustainability, safety and environmental awareness.

At the opening ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, Maxime Verhagen said:

“Gate terminal marks a crucial next step in the development of the Netherlands as the gas hub of Northwest Europe. Over the last decade, gas has changed from a local energy source into a global commodity. More and more countries are linking into a worldwide gas web – a web in which the Netherlands as home to Gate terminal, the Gas Access To Europe, can play a pivotal role.”

In a joint statement, Paul van Gelder, Gasunie chairman and Eelco Hoekstra, Vopak chairman, said:

“LNG can be transported from all over the world, providing additional sources of supply for Northwest Europe. This diversification improves not only the security of supply, but also liquidity in the market, a factor which is becoming increasingly important in the European gas market. This first LNG terminal in the Netherlands was initiated by Gasunie and Vopak because we saw the perfect opportunity to offer new services to our customers.”

Gasunie, a leading gas infrastructure and transport company in Europe, manages and develops the national gas transmission network as well as provides for gas transport and infrastructure services.

Royal Vopak, the world’s largest independent tank storage service provider, operates 82 terminals (including Gate) in 31 countries with a storage capacity of 26.6 million cubic metres. The company is adding 6.7 million cbm of new capacity to expand its total to more than 33 million cbm in 2014.

In June, Vopak announced that it and Spain’s Enagas had agreed to jointly acquire an LNG import and re-gasification terminal in Altamira on the east coast of Mexico. Their 60/40 joint-venture company is concluding project financing and government approvals to complete the acquisition from a consortium comprising Shell, Total and Mitsui.

Established in 2006, the terminal has a throughput capacity of 7.4 billion cubic metres per year to import and re-gasify LNG for the Mexican market.