North Sea Port can grow into a European hub for pure hydrogen

The North Sea Port is ideally located to act as a hub for pure hydrogen, CE Delft and Buck Consultants International conclude in a new study. The port area on the border between the Netherlands and Belgium already has the largest hydrogen cluster, has appropriate infrastructure, is strategically located and has sufficient space available.

South of the western Schelde is the North Sea harbor, a port area that extends over more than 60 kilometers, 9,100 hectares and two countries: Belgium and the Netherlands. The port is accessible to seagoing ships and, thanks to its central location, serves as a logistical hub for all corners of Europe and even China.

The area houses 550 companies – which together provide about 100,000 jobs – many of which are active in energy- and resource-intensive sectors – such as large companies from the chemical, steel, energy and food industries. Some of these companies have joined forces in Smart Delta Resources (SDR), which focuses on CO2 reduction, sustainable raw materials and green energy in connection with the much-needed improvement of the economy.

North Sea Port can grow into a European hub for pure hydrogen

Pure hydrogen plays a key role in making heavy industry more sustainable. One of SDR’s most important programs is therefore the Hydrogen Delta program. The aim of the program is to help the largest hydrogen cluster in the Benelux – located by the North Sea port – to make it more sustainable by phasing out gray hydrogen through investments in pure hydrogen.

Excellently positioned for hydrogen hub

The feasibility study conducted by CE Delft and Buck Consultants International (BCI) is part of this program and the Wind in the Sails compensation package. The study shows that the North Sea harbor is “excellently positioned” to become an important hub for pure hydrogen.

Firstly, the port already has the largest hydrogen cluster in the Benelux. Every year, companies produce and consume 580 kilotons of hydrogen. Demand for sustainable hydrogen is also expected to increase significantly in the coming years – both as a raw material and fuel in sectors such as steel, chemicals, fertilizers, refining, food, building materials and transport.

Following a previous study of large-scale green hydrogen production in the region, several hydrogen production projects are already at an advanced planning stage. There are also several promising carbon capture, use or storage projects targeting low-carbon hydrogen production in the region.

The researchers also mention the strategic location in relation to the planned ‘hydrogen backwaters’ in the Netherlands and Belgium. North Sea Port is working with pipeline operators Gasunie (NL) and Fluxys (BE) on the development of this hydrogen pipeline network, which will connect the main hydrogen producers and consumers in the cluster with each other and – via national backbones – with other regions.

Furthermore, existing infrastructure in the region can be used for promising hydrogen transporters. It is liquid, organic substances – such as ammonia – that make it possible to transport hydrogen at normal pressure and temperature.

Finally, the North Sea harbor has sufficient affordable land available – necessary for hydrogen reception and conversion assets – and the harbor has “excellent nautical conditions” with room for the development of nodes in places with sufficient depth and accessibility.

Industry and transport fundamentally different

All in all, according to CE Delft and BCI, this makes the harbor the ideal place for a clean hydrogen hub. In addition, the cost estimate and research in promising exporting countries show that it is economically possible to develop the import chain in the region, while imports can help strengthen the local green production chain through extra flexibility. The hub feature can also create hundreds of new jobs.

Smart Delta Resources and North Sea Port are obviously pleased with the results of the survey. The port recently presented its hydrogen strategy – ‘Connect 2025’ – and emphasized how crucial hydrogen conversion is for the region. The use of (among other things) sustainable hydrogen must fundamentally change the industry and the transport sector.

“North Sea Port is setting the tone for this with its hydrogen strategy, as an important elaboration of the ‘Connect 2025’ strategy plan for energy and climate,” said Daan Schalck, CEO of North Sea Port. “The North Sea Port is thus expanding from the largest hydrogen node in the Benelux to a hydrogen node on a European scale.”

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