Belgian study considers role of renewable hydrogen imports in energy transition

A new study published by a Belgian hydrogen import coalition finds that the import of renewable energy is both ‘technically and economically feasible’.

Many countries have outlined their plans for their own hydrogen strategies in recent months, but national hydrogen ambitions may not always be supported by domestic production capabilities.

Belgium’s climate objective is to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels and this will require a large-scale switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The country’s hydrogen import coalition, consisting of DEME, ENGIE, EXMAR, Fluxys, Port of Antwerp, Port of Zeebrugge and WaterstofNet, has now completed a large-scale industrial study mapping out the financial, technical and regulatory aspects of the entire hydrogen import chain – from production abroad to delivery via ships and pipelines to Belgium and internal distribution. The document is intended to provide a basis for a further rollout to industrial applications.

The study finds that various types of hydrogen-derived carriers from a range of supply regions will be able to provide cost-competitive renewable energy and raw materials by 2030-2035. The most promising green energy carriers are seen as ammonia, methanol and synthetic methane.

According to the consortium, ‘These can be deployed through existing modes of transport – such as pipelines and maritime transport in particular – and growing markets, encouraging a rapid start.’

The next step for the consortium is to consider how Belgian seaports need to be prepared to receive hydrogen imports. The coalition explains: Specific pilot projects are being set up whereby we can make maximum use of the Flemish expertise and strength in the area of logistics, industry and technology for the development of a sustainable economy and the climate transition in our own region and a broader hinterland.’

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO at Port of Antwerp, commented on the initiative: ‘We want to give hydrogen every chance as an energy carrier, a basic element for chemistry and a fuel, and are therefore committing ourselves as an active pioneer in the hydrogen economy.

‘As a world port and Europe’s largest integrated chemical cluster, we are an important link in this chain. The outcome of this study and its next steps offer promising perspectives for a further large-scale roll-out of hydrogen applications.’

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes