Europe’s largest port plans to become a major hydrogen hub

Rotterdam bets on a portfolio of hydrogen transporters

Europe’s largest port is on the way to becoming a key hub of a new “hydrogen economy” with many projects underway over its 42 kilometers in length. The Port Authority and many port companies are currently preparing to build the necessary infrastructure for a complete system of local and international supply and demand converging on Rotterdam.

Their confidence was shown last week, when the city, the port authority and the province of South Holland signed a joint declaration with nearly 70 port operators and business partners in (potential) exporting countries.

They affirmed their ability to supply Europe with at least 4.6 Mt of hydrogen per year by 2030. This was their “offer” to the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who now defends actively the new REPowerEU strategy. Europe has suddenly raised its target for producing and importing green hydrogen to 20 Mt/yr by 2030. Rotterdam signatories say they can supply more than 20% of the European Commission’s target .

Signatories included a wide range of ports and industry groups with hydrogen ambitions. Their engagement occurred at the World Hydrogen Summit & Exhibition hosted by the UK-based Sustainable Energy Council, which highlighted Rotterdam’s broad hydrogen ambitions.

The port’s global initiatives anticipate both the supply and demand for hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels.

electrolysis engine

The Port Authority of Rotterdam and major industry players anticipate an increase in hydrogen demand in Europe. Their bold initiative to build large smelters on reclaimed land near the mouth of the Meuse – the Maasvlakte – is taking shape. New offshore wind turbines under development will power them.

The Netherlands has around 2 GW of offshore wind capacity, which is just the start of the country’s plan to fill large swathes of its North Sea waters with wind towers, creating 21 GW of offshore wind power by 2030. About half of this is currently out for tender.

Wind power for green hydrogen production on Maasvlakte will come with guarantees of origin from the offshore 2GW Hollandse Kust Noord Wind Farm site, currently being developed by Shell’s CrossWind consortium and Dutch renewable energy developer Eneco. The consortium intends to make the 69-turbine wind farm operational by the end of next year.

The site itself, of about 25 hectares of backfilled land, is planned for an initial 2 GW conversion park, made up of electrolysis units of 200 to 300 MW each. Shell, BP and Air Liquide are among the groups that now propose to build the smelters.

Shell is taking the lead with plans for its 200 MW Hydrogen Holland I project, now subject to an investment decision later this year. It will supply green hydrogen to Shell’s energy and chemical park, which operates some 30 kilometers further east of the port. ThyssenKrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers will expand the plant with its 20 MW large-scale alkaline water electrolysis units.

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The next project in the conversion park is H2-Fifty, a BP joint venture with Dutch consortium HyCC. This 250 MW electrolysis facility will supply green hydrogen to BP RR – Europe’s largest oil refinery – and other port industries. Currently in the conceptual phase, the project anticipates FID by the end of next year.

The continued expansion of the Maasvlakte site is set to gain momentum thanks to EU mandates, which will require port industries to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2035. The port authority expects the site to Maasvlakte’s 25 hectares will eventually expand to a capacity of 20 GW, making it by far the largest smelter production site in Europe. A ramp-up in calls for tenders is planned after 2026.

Pipe connectors

Rotterdam wants to produce and import green and blue hydrogen locally. The port aims to import hydrogen in the form of ammonia and LOHC, and transfer it to a portfolio of hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels. These will have to move easily in the port and well beyond.

An open-access underground pipeline will serve the new smelter park while connecting to port industries and the ten independent import terminals located along the 42 km of the port.

Two hydrogen pipeline systems are currently under development. HyTransPort, the port’s dedicated hydrogen pipeline, is a joint venture between the Port of Rotterdam and the Dutch natural gas company Gasunie. Construction is expected to begin early next year.

HyTransPort will connect to an extensive network of pipelines serving North West Europe, connecting the Port of Rotterdam to the rest of the Netherlands, the Port of Antwerp and the Rhine-Ruhr industrial region in Germany. Called the Delta Corridor, this 4-pipeline system will transport hydrogen, hydrogen fuels and other industrial gases.

To be operational in 2026, the consortium behind the project includes the Port of Rotterdam, Shell, BP, ThyssenKrupp, Essen-based power developer RWE and several other industry groups.

The Delta Corridor will also work in the other direction, transporting captured CO2 from industries to undersea spent gas wells. It will facilitate the Portos project, the most advanced of the three major carbon capture and storage programs planned in the Netherlands (each named after one of the Three Musketeers!).

Portos will repurpose an offshore natural gas platform, to store around 2.5 Mt of CO2 per year, delivering it to depleted gas wells more than 2 km deep. It will take away CO2 from port industries such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Air Liquide and Air Products, according to a contract signed last year, and possibly from industries in Germany.

The €500 million project is being developed by a public consortium made up of three members, including the port authority, Gasunie and the Dutch natural gas company EBN. The FID is expected this year, with the operation due to begin in 2025.

Anticipate imports

Europe’s new need for 20 Mt/y of hydrogen by 2030 will far exceed its ability to produce such quantities. This will require imports, opening up huge opportunities for blue and green hydrogen producers worldwide. The Autonomous Port and its partners are positioning themselves for this.

The Port Authority of Rotterdam is already looking at around 100 supply opportunities around the world, in the United States, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. It has been the subject of exploratory studies with more than ten countries, including Iceland, Portugal, Morocco, Oman, South Africa, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Australia and the Canada, specifically examining opportunities for strategic cooperation to establish export chains.

A key piece of infrastructure for imports is now in the design stage. The ACE terminal, which will be built on the Maasvlakte, will serve as an import storage terminal for green and blue ammonia. It is the subject of a first agreement between Gasunie, the Dutch terminal operator HES International, and the port storage company Vopak. Gasunie will connect the pipeline to the site, which could eventually include an ammonia cracking facility.

By Alan P. Mammoser for

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