The Port of Rotterdam: Five hydrogen startups leading the way in corporate collaboration

06 September 2023 by Nancy Schurig
blog author

​A futuristic port where large corporations collaborate with innovative hydrogen startups is set to become reality, for industrial decarbonization.

The Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, is poised to become a world-class industrial hub as the world shifts away from fossil fuels to focus on a cleaner economy.

Demand for hydrogen as an energy carrier could triple by 2050 depending on how successful the uptake is and its scope is unbounded.

While hydrogen can be used as a sustainable alternative to power machinery, from heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and trains, to buses and boats, it has many other uses including electricity storage and within industrial processes as a raw material, with many startups latching on to showcase its vast potential.

Green hydrogen, produced by splitting water through electrolysis using renewable energy, has the potential to become a major player in helping the world to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, according to McKinsey.

The acclaimed port aims for a 55 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and a completely CO2 neutral port in 2050, and will take center stage in helping to achieve the global target. It will unleash hydrogen’s low-carbon ability to decarbonize heavy industry, long haul freight, shipping, and aviation.

While the port has welcomed major corporations such as Shell and Rolls Royce who are innovating to evolve away from fossil fuel dependency, it also embraces smaller innovative businesses in an agile market who can disrupt with their sustainable ideas.

There is huge potential for more firms to form part of the major hub as demand for green hydrogen soars and universities are playing a big part in innovating and driving solutions.

Research from scientists at leading universities, such as TU Delft (Delft University of Technology), is proving invaluable to the acceleration of utilizing green hydrogen. This is particularly evidential at the Department of Chemical Engineering at TU Delft, where professor Fokko Mulder invented the Battolyser technology. I mention this in more detail below, while highlighting a handful of forward-thinking startups establishing themselves in the port to steer the green economy transition.

Battolyser®
Battolyser is a combination of a battery and a hydrogen plant meaning it can store electricity from solar and wind energy and, when fully charged, use any surplus electricity to produce green hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be used immediately for industry and logistics or stored for later use. It enables cheap hydrogen to be produced when electricity prices are low and when prices increase, the electricity can be fed to the grid. Now the Battolyser is ready to be commercially scaled to help fight climate change, the port will house the world’s first large-scale Battolyser factory, estimated to cost around €100m and generate 700 jobs. The factory, scheduled to open during the second half of 2024, will also create hundreds of indirect jobs with supply chain partners.

HyTrucks
This consortium comprising Hyzon Motors, Air Liquide and DATS 24 unveiled an ambitious commitment to deploy 1,000 hydrogen trucks and 25 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2025, making it one of the largest European projects to deploy zero-emission, heavy duty fleets in Europe’s heaviest traffic areas. The refuelling stations aim to create a robust network between Antwerp, Rotterdam and Duisburg and the project will ensure zero-emission trucking between the Netherlands, Belgium and western Germany.

Gunvor
The company’s site within the port offers access to receive green ammonia (to be converted to hydrogen) from large-scale green hydrogen production locations operated by Air Products and global project partners. Gunvor, a petroleum company, has struck a partnership with Air Product for a hydrogen import terminal in Rotterdam, which is expected to provide green hydrogen to the Netherlands by 2026 to help diversify energy sources and meet climate targets.

Wattlab

Wattlab’s bright ambition is to put solar on every part of the supply chain to support companies in the maritime industry. This is achieved by using solar hatches - aluminium hatches with built-in solar modules - to produce solar energy for more sustainable boats, enabling less generator dependency and oil price fluctuations. The solar hatches mean 93 per cent less generator running time and 73 per cent reduced generator fuel consumption.

QuinteQ Energy
In December, QuinteQ joined forces with the Port of Rotterdam to help in its plight to be net-zero by 2050. The port called on the firm’s expertise to investigate opportunities to develop solutions to fossil fuels, using QuinteQ’s high-tech, containerized flywheel technology (developed by the Boeing Company in the US). QuinteQ claims its flywheel (a rotating mass storing kinetic energy) will deliver and absorb power peaks in locations where it is difficult to conduct grid expansion or install a permanent, large-scale solution. QuinteQ wants to empower the energy transition for ports, by allowing terminal operators to maximize the utilisation of existing electric infrastructure, without facing challenges from a congested power grid.

Green hydrogen is rapidly progressing as an alternative energy solution and playing a key role in many innovations to help mitigate the climate emergency. Which solution, from the ecosystem of renewable energy firms based in the Port of Rotterdam, do you feel will have the biggest impact and how successful do you think it will be from a commercially scalable point of view? I look forward to hearing from you.

Nancy is a Principal Consultant within Acre's Sustainable Energy Team. She specializes in engineering, operations and business development recruitment within the Sustainable Energy Sector including Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Systems for the European 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 Nancy was working in a reputable consulting firm with the focus on the Energy Market. There 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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