– It’s an industry with a lot of well experienced people with big companies, and there we were, five whippersnappers straight out of school.
By Vilde Øines Nybakken
Connect LNG has developed a cost efficient solution for transferring fluids from ship to shore. We had a chat with the five guys who started Connect LNG back in 2012, when they were students at NTNU School of Entrepreneurship (NSE).
An intense feasibility study
It all started when a captain who had sailed gas carrier for years came to NSE with a problem he had noticed in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry. He had seen a lot of projects failing on developing infrastructure at the terminal docks for transferring gas, due to high costs.
– He was a practical guy, and he had some concepts in mind. His ideas were taken to NSE, and we performed a feasibility study. We looked at the marked and found out that the challenges he had identified were spot on, says the guys behind Connect LNG.
The feasibility study they went through is an intense way to conduct an opportunity analysis. The group basically locked themselves in for a week, making phone calls to all over the world, to find out whether the idea was good or not and if it was a business opportunity or not. They checked the marked, the competition, how far the technology has gotten and so on. The test got a thumbs up, and they got to develop the idea further at NSE by working in a team.
– The test went well, and some of us got a passion for it. The timing seemed right.
Ship to shore system
The concept seems quite easy when the guys explain it. A floating platform is attached to the side of the ship. Then well isolated hoses is lashed on to transport the gas in fluid form from the ship to land, or the other way around. Connect LNG delivers a total solution, basically everything needed between ship and dock.
– We started cutting steel in May, and transported gas in the beginning of October. It was a short, hectic period of time. Pretty challenging, but a lot of fun. A lot of people were involved, at the most about 50-70 people working on the project full time.
– Our solution replaces a dock or a jetty, which can cost up to hundred of millions, or even several billions in Norwegian currency. There has been a lot of interest over the years, but going in for a new technology is a risk. We have spent the last 4-5 years developing, testing, commercialising and meeting customers.
In 2016 they had a meeting with the gas company Gas Natural Fenosa and started a project with them. The goal was to get the system up and going as soon as possible, with high quality and the security aspect ensured.
Watch a short film explaining the concept at the end of the post.
Enabling cleaner and cheaper energy
To enable cleaner and cheaper energy to the world has been important for Connect LNG from the beginning.
– We provide a bridge over to sustainable power. We make it possible to go from oil to more eco-friendly gas. We have made calculations, and one sale reduces the CO2 emission of 32 000 cars. We are talking about major changes here, and that is motivating.
The low oil prices may be one of the reasons why their solution aroused interest, according to Connect LNG, who claims to be lucky with the timing.
– The low oil prices force clients to think differently, to find ways to make things cheaper than earlier. We have gotten a lot of competent people aboard since there has been a lot of competent people available. We probably would not have gotten this done as fast as we did if the oil prices were higher.
Their solution does not require interventions in the local shore zone. The floating solution avoids dredging and interfering with the local marine environment.
– A permanent jetty will interfere with the local marine environment, disturb the animal life and be harmful to the environment. Our solution reduces both the costs and the environmental emission.
Got their way of thinking from NSE
Making a startup a success is not easy. There has been challenges along the way. Time has been one of them.
– We went from being five people to becoming a big company in a short period of time. Our strength is that we are a group of clever people who have sticked together through tough times. Many startups give up along the way.
Looking back, the guys think a lot of people in the industry were surprised when they succeeded. The guys have a lot of humour when talking about the early years, and how they went from having presentations for big gas companies with a cord and a bucket, to hearing that what they did was shaking the industry.
– We were a group of 25 year olds. It is an industry with a lot of well experienced, older people with big companies, and there we were, five whippersnappers straight out of school.
Connect LNG praises the milieu around NSE and the NTNU Department of Maritime Technology, which were a fundamental part of their initial phase.
– Many people think you need to have the perfect product before you go to the client. NSE teaches you to think the opposite: You have to solve a problem and present your solution good enough for the client to understand it in a nutshell.
But the solution does not have to be complete before presenting it.
– That turned out to be the case for us.