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European Ports Attract Investors to the Gateway of Clean Energy

The hydrogen plants located in Rotterdam would be linked to refineries at the port via a pipeline network which would be worth nearly EUR 1.5 billion. The EU is planning to finance EUR 16 billion for hydrogen-related projects and will award another EUR 5 billion in aid to key cross-border initiatives around November. 

Sep 03, 2023

european ports

The European Union (EU) is helping ports in Europe by financing the bloc’s green transformation. This has created competition and the ports are racing to win a key role in the bloc’s ambitious climate strategy as they try to evolve from entry points for fossil-fuel imports into industrial clusters for clean energy. The EU has already allocated more than EUR 16 billion (USD 23.4 billion) for hydrogen-related projects and will award another EUR 5 billion in aid to key cross-border initiatives around November. In the region’s biggest seaport in Rotterdam, port authorities and major energy companies are developing a large-scale network that will include clean power supplied by offshore wind farms, as well as hydrogen production and pipelines to ship the fuel to manufacturers on-site and inland. 

The 27-nation EU has pledged to produce 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen, made with renewable power breaking up water molecules – and import another 10 million tonnes by 2030 as part of its RePowerEU strategy to shift away from Russian fossil fuels and accelerate the green shift. Ports are set to play an important role in the development of the market, both as hubs for imports, as well as investors in infrastructure to produce, store, and distribute hydrogen. According to a study by Deloitte Belgium, by 2050, approximately 42 percent of the total demand for hydrogen in the EU could be located in port areas, mostly driven by industries and the international shipping sector. Contributing to nearly a quarter of the overall EU goal, the Port of Rotterdam plans to provide the north-western part of the continent with at least 4.6 million tonnes of hydrogen by the end of this decade.

Under a project co-financed by the Dutch government and companies including Shell, BP, and Air Liquide, production plants, or electrolyzers, will be located in 24 hectares of reclaimed land close to the Maas River, or Maasvlakte, and powered by offshore wind farms. The project is expected to be ready by 2025 and the port expects its capacity to eventually reach 2-2.5 gigawatts by 2030, becoming the largest electrolysis production site in the EU.

Mr. Nico Van Dooren, Director of New Business Development and Portfolio at the Port of Rotterdam said, “RePowerEU requires a huge amount of hydrogen, it is mind-blowing. There is increasing demand for green hydrogen from various industries and it will continue to grow.” 

According to the port’s estimates, the hydrogen plants in Rotterdam will be connected to refineries at the port through a network of pipelines worth as much as EUR 1.5 billion. Gasunie, the state-owned Dutch energy infrastructure operator, has already announced an investment of EUR 100 million in the links. Furthermore, the port wants to expand the network and by 2027 ship green hydrogen across Belgium and Germany, through the so-called Delta Rhine corridor, a pipeline of almost 300 kilometers.

Additionally, the ships themselves are also beginning the shift to cleaner fuels. AP Moller-Maersk, the world’s No. 2 container carrier, in June, ordered six methanol-powered ships for delivery starting in 2026, bringing its total order book of vessels burning that kind of fuel to 25. The clean energy infrastructure across Europe is set to get a new financial boost when the EU finalizes this autumn a decision on what projects qualify for aid as cross-border links key to the bloc’s energy transition. In preliminary talks in June, officials concluded that the Bar-Mar hydrogen pipeline from Barcelona to Marseille – which could be expanded to Berlin – would be eligible for green infrastructure financing. Other projects that got the tentative green light include a link between Portugal and Spain as well as Nordic pipelines that would bring Swedish and Finnish renewable hydrogen into Germany.

Also Read: Green Hydrogen Mandates Target Hard-to-Abate Sectors for Cabinet Review

In ports and coastal areas, the replacement of fossil fuels by renewable hydrogen could reduce 655 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 16 percent of all EU emissions in 2019, according to Deloitte. Koninklijke Vopak, a Dutch tank storage company plans to invest EUR 1 billion in clean energy infrastructure globally. Mr. Marcel Van de Kar, Global Director of New Energies at Koninklijke Vopak said, 

“Ports are changing. It’s like combustion engine cars versus electric vehicles: From the outside, (it) seems they did not change dramatically but in fact, it is a completely different product.”

Additionally, Mr. Ruud Kempener, a member of the EU energy commissioner’s political office said, “Ports will be more than leaders in the energy transition; they will help green Europe and trigger a clean shift in the sector globally. Hydrogen production can be developed there with wind energy and then distributed across Europe. Harbors are already transitioning to clean sources of energy, as is the industry around ports.”

According to its chief executive Jacques Vandermeiren, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is also discussing hydrogen projects with investors. “The place where you have to start the transition from fossil fuels to renewable molecules and electrons for sure is ports,” he said. “We are discussing with companies on the projects and on the location. But I see a huge interest from companies for having storage capacity pipelines, but also production sites.”

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