Rotterdam ‘uniquely positioned’ to be leading NWE hydrogen hub

A new report has found that the Port of Rotterdam is ‘uniquely positioned to develop into Northwest Europe’s leading hydrogen hub, with green hydrogen as a key pillar’.

However, the report – which was published by the Dutch Research Institute For Transitions (DRIFT) and written at the invitation of the Port of Rotterdam Authority – added that this development ‘shouldn’t be taken for granted’ and investment would be required for Rotterdam to reach its potential. ‘It is important,’ said DRIFT and the Port of Rotterdam Authority, ‘to not only invest in hydrogen consumption and production at an early stage, but also – indeed, above all – in the import and trade of this product.’

Hydrogen for the Port of Rotterdam in an International Context; a Plea for Leadership draws on ‘dialogue sessions’ led by Professor Jan Rotmans, which were attended by experts from the port’s industrial sector, the government and science.

The report found that, by 2050, ‘local dependence on imported power can run up to 60% in Northwest Europe – and in the Netherlands even to as high as 75%’ – and Professor Rotmans expects that the new power trade flows will result in a new geopolitical balance at the global level.

‘Based on this assessment,’ said Professor Rotmans, ‘the Netherlands should give thought to which position it intends to occupy in this future international arena. If you plan to retain your strategic function, you will need to actively pre-finance hydrogen projects as a government, to give impetus to the development of this international position. And private companies will also have to make substantial investments in hydrogen to ensure that they can play a leading role in the new, carbon-neutral economy.’

According to Professor Rotmans, parties should not only invest in green hydrogen over the next decade but also in blue hydrogen, which is produced using natural gas. The carbon that is released during this process is immediately captured and stored in reservoirs in the sea bed. ‘The progression from blue to green hydrogen is inevitable if we intend to develop the required mass and volume – both at the demand and at the supply ends. In Rotterdam’s case, this step will play a crucial part in both reducing the emissions of its industrial sector and simultaneously retaining its existing status as energy port.’

The Port of Rotterdam Authority and DRIFT pointed out that green hydrogen requires long-term planning. ‘For the moment,’ said the Port Authority and DRIFT, ‘green hydrogen is still a relatively expensive option, and over the next ten years, there will not be enough green power to enable the large-scale production of hydrogen. In many cases, it is still impossible to develop a profitable business case for projects in this area. In this light, the report includes a recommendation to the government to actively pre-finance projects via a public-private investment fund. This requires combined tendering schemes that explicitly link the realisation of wind farms to the production of green hydrogen.’

Allard Castelein, the Port Authority CEO, said that the report validated Rotterdam’s hydrogen strategy. ‘Hydrogen will play a central part in the new, carbon-neutral economy,’ said Castelein. ‘It will also provide Rotterdam with the opportunity to continue its key role in the Dutch economy as an international energy hub. To achieve these objectives, we are working on a series of concrete projects along the entire chain, from production and infrastructure to consumption and import. The DRIFT report both confirms and enriches our approach in this area, and underlines the importance of the projects we are working on.’

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes