A proposal to build the first ship-to-ship liquefied natural gas marine refuelling service along the west coast of North America is getting support from the British Columbia government.

A statement from the premier's office says replacing diesel fuel with LNG has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from marine shipping by at least 20 per cent.

The province is contributing $25,000 to a study to examine the competitive, environmental and social impact of LNG marine refuelling, also known as bunkering.

Since 2017, B.C. has trucked LNG to the handful of BC Ferries and Seaspan cargo ferries that use it, but the new plan would add a fuelling vessel filled from an onshore terminal in Delta to move LNG directly to large vessels.

Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology, says LNG-powered container, car carrier and cruise vessels could begin arriving in Vancouver as early as next year.

Global demand for the fuel is expected to exceed nine million tonnes annually by 2025.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for LNG supplier Fortis BC shows a five-year construction period for bunkering infrastructure in Delta could create thousands of jobs and pump $930 million annually into the economy, once the project is complete.

Premier John Horgan says he's confident B.C. can join the global network of ports providing liquefied natural gas directly to ships.

"This will allow B.C. to have a direct impact on global emissions by reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from visiting vessels." Horgan said in the statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2019.

Keep reading