Transit port for e-fuels; a new strategy for the Harbour Industrial Cluster Rotterdam (HIC)

Transit port for e-fuels; a new strategy for the Harbour Industrial Cluster Rotterdam (HIC)

26 jan 2022 | Nieuws

With the transition to e-fuels, HIC Rotterdam will be able to retain its hub function for energy streams. However, unlike now, this will be less as a result from its role as a fuel producer, but mainly as a transit port for hydrogen and e-fuels to the hinterland. A conclusion following the recent analysis on the transition challenges and their impact on the existing cluster clearly states that a fundamental change in position on e-fuels in the Port of Rotterdam is foreseen. HIC Rotterdam is well positioned to play a significant role in this transition to e-fuels. SmartPort and partners Voltachem, TNO and Deltalinqs  explored the possibilities with various stakeholders in the value chain such as BP, Gate Terminal, Nouryon, Port of Rotterdam, Shell, Sohar Port/Freezone and Vopak. Download the narrative report here

E-fuels, produced from green hydrogen, will most likely supply a considerable share of the demand for sustainable fuels. E-fuels are expected to start playing a role in sustainable transport as from 2030. The following questions were part of this study:
1. What would be a logical role for HIC Rotterdam in the e-fuels value chain?
2. What is the best way for HIC Rotterdam to distinguish itself from other clusters?
3. Which part of the value chain can best be attracted to Rotterdam (production, storage, infrastructure?

Hub function retained
For e-fuels, the creation of limited strategic production capacity is important in order to stimulate development of innovative production technologies and secure a future position in production use and transit of hydrogen. However, in the long run the main share of e-fuels, other than hydrogen, will probably be imported. There are two main reasons for importing a large share of the e-fuels needed. First of all, the Netherlands do not have enough energy available from renewable sources. In addition, the production of e-fuels in the Netherlands is considerably more expensive than importing those products from abroad. Geopolitical independence is a point of attention in the choice of countries from which to import.

Hydrogen will be one of the main feedstocks in this transition. From a strategic and economic point of view, hydrogen should be produced locally as much as possible (for direct use but not as feedstock for e-fuel production). Due to the fact that a conversion to a carrier like LOHC  or to liquid hydrogen is not needed when hydrogen is produced locally, it will be more economic than import when used directly as a e-fuel[1]To actually establish the transition to e-fuels , structured cooperation throughout the entire network chain, on a regional to global level, is essential.

“This study provides us important insights in the possibilities of the future position of the Rotterdam industrial cluster in the value chain of green fuels. The Rotterdam entrepreneurial attitude will help to benefit from our strategic hub position. With the right knowledge from this type of research we can overcome the challenges and build towards the promising future that lies before us!” says Deltalinqs’ Climate Program director, Alice Krekt.

Development of Rotterdam E-fuels
The energy transition, which is needed to realise climate goals, will have a major impact on all actors involved in the transport value chain. This includes end users, refineries and other fuel producers, port operators, vehicle suppliers, refuelling infrastructure providers, storage providers and all connected value chains. Large reductions in CO2 emissions are necessary for companies to maintain their “license to operate.” Former research such as the Power2Fuels project where a mapping of suitable e-fuels per transport modality was prepared and compared for each modality the techno-economic performance of different e-fuels. Another study, space requirements were determined of a methanol e-fuel production cluster large enough to supply all fuel demand in the Netherlands from long haul road transport, shipping and aviation.

New questions
This study raises new questions that need attention in follow-up research such as; what will be the impact on Rotterdam as a bunker port? And how will the petrochemical cluster and its feedstock streams change? Concluding, it can be stated that a transition to e-fuels will face HIC Rotterdam with lots of challenges, but if the necessary stakeholders unite forces, they can pave the way towards a future in which transport has become sustainable and in which HIC Rotterdam can remain a major energy& industrial logistic hub for North West Europe.

At the TNO website you can find more background information and reports for this CHAIN research.
NL website
ENG website

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