Can the Port of Rotterdam achieve its climate-neutral ambition?

03 July 2023 by Nancy Schurig
blog author

​There is a hive of activity in the renewable energy space as Europe’s largest port stirs a pot of innovation to position green hydrogen as a key energy provider.

The Port of Rotterdam aims to combine smooth, effective shipping with pioneering sustainability plans for a cleaner and greener port to boost the European economy.

According to Porthos (Port of Rotterdam CO₂ Transport Hub and Offshore Storage), approximately 14 percent of the Netherlands’ CO₂ emissions come from the Rotterdam port area so the country has been working hard to develop a more positive environmental narrative through more sustainable operations at its thriving port.

Green hydrogen could provide 25 percent of the world’s energy requirements by 2050. By the same year, the Netherlands aims to achieve a CO₂-neutral energy management and fully circular industry, to prevent oil, coal and natural gas being the relied-upon energy source, as industry gravitates towards green hydrogen and sustainable electricity.

Over the next few months, in a series of blogs, I will be looking in more detail at the Port of Rotterdam’s hydrogen ecosystem, and how hydrogen will be imported, produced and distributed. I will also be showcasing the businesses, from the established major players to the forward-thinking start-ups, who will be playing their part.

How will green hydrogen boost operations at the port?

Green hydrogen (the name given to hydrogen produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen – via renewable energy-generated electrolysis) plays a key role in the clean energy transition.

Having set the bold target to recognise the Netherlands port as a key leader in the global energy transition, the port has started to undergo an impressive revamp, attracting new innovations such as a large-scale green hydrogen production network and biofuels to reduce carbon emissions and recycling activities to embrace a circular economy.

While the port is perfectly located for the energy transition, local companies must continue to carve a pathway to reduce their climate impact by developing robust relationships with other providers and embracing the array of technology to galvanise a global hydrogen economy.

The port is already home to established businesses such as Mitsubishi and Shell (the latter is transitioning from a classical oil and gas company towards a hydrogen industry) as well as ship and truck companies poised for hydrogen transportation.
Shell is building Holland Hydrogen I at the port, Europe’s largest green hydrogen plant, which is expected to be operational in 2025. The 200MW electrolyser is expected to produce up to 60 tonnes of renewable hydrogen per day and renewable power will come from an offshore wind farm, part-owned by Shell.

The Port of Rotterdam is focusing on a four-pillar strategy, structured to help achieve its goal and increase long-term efficiency. These pillars are divided into efficiency and infrastructure, a new energy system, new raw materials and fuels system and sustainable transport.

What are the challenges surrounding green hydrogen production?

I recently attended the Hydrogen (H2) Forum in Berlin to learn more about the three major challenges that the industry is facing. The first is price (hydrogen is still more expensive than coal), the second is infrastructure which requires an urgent overhaul and the third is sourcing the right workforce.

It is vital to hire talented and experienced engineers who can not only support the development of the port’s aspirations but also provide the right skill set for the hydrogen market to scale up.

While the port - regarded as the gateway to Europe - already has a supply chain in place with allocated storage space, the regular gas tanks will need to be replaced with fit-for-purpose hydrogen tanks which requires expertise and knowledge.

How can Acre support the green hydrogen transition at the port?

As a principal consultant specialising in sustainable energy at Acre, I have a deep-rooted passion for supporting the clean energy economy. I work closely with people to help create greater impact through their roles in the sustainability space.

As a result, I am particularly interested in how the port’s pillar strategy will oversee the development of a new workforce, equipped with the requisite high-level skill set to drive the hydrogen industry forward.

This new upcoming market can only be successful by embedding more skilled individuals who can accelerate hydrogen’s potential into something tangible, placing the port in a strong position to inspire and motivate other companies, ports and highly polluting industries in their quest to go carbon neutral.

The value of innovative start-ups

Collaboration and relationship building is also already well underway at the port, with the adoption of innovations from start-ups such as Battolyser Systems, the battery storage system producer.

The purpose-led tech company produces and charges batteries using wind or solar energy for storage. When the battery (a recyclable dual battery and electrolyser system) is full but continues to charge, it becomes an electrolyser and automatically produces hydrogen which can go into the grid system, used in industry, transportation or directly onto trucks to be delivered elsewhere.

This innovation produces green hydrogen at a lower cost, while balancing the grid and storing green energy which is invaluable to bolstering the hydrogen space.

How is hydrogen stored?

Hydrogen must be transferred from its gas state to liquid form predominantly for safety reasons and easier storage. Because gas expands wider than liquid, more hydrogen can be stored on ships as a liquid but infrastructure still needs to be developed and expanded to cope with storing vast amounts of hydrogen.

There is also activity under the sea, in the form of CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage) which is a low-carbon method enabling green hydrogen to be produced at the lowest cost to decarbonise transport and heating.

What do you think?

Based on the high sustainability ambitions of the Port of Rotterdam, what challenges do you consider to be the most prevalent for the port and are there any innovations that strike the most impactful chord with you?

I would be interested to hear your views on the developments within the green hydrogen space, especially if you are interested in embarking on a new career and utilising your skill set as a force for good.

If you are a company based at the port and would like to share your story so far with us, I would welcome a discussion about your journey and how Acre, with 20 years’ experience in sustainability recruitment, could help you with your future hiring requirements similar to this.

Nancy is a Principal Consultant within Acre's Sustainable Energy Team. She specialises in engineering, operations and business development recruitment within the Sustainable Energy Sector including Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Systems for the German Market. Prior to this, she was responsible for developing the Energy Sector within Germany and Europe in a German Recruitment firm for more than 4 years. Earlier she was working in a reputable consulting firm with the focus on the Energy Market. As a PMO she was part of big transformation and change processes of a global European Energy company. She holds a BA in Business Administration from Berlin School of Economics. She is fluent in German and English and advanced in Dutch.

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