Hydrogen plays an important role in the transition to a climate-neutral world. Port of Antwerp-Bruges is an active pioneer in the hydrogen economy and intends to take up a leading position as a European import hub for green hydrogen.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen (H) is the simplest and most abundant element in our universe. It has one proton and one electron. In its pure form, it occurs as hydrogen gas (H₂), also called hydrogen for short. At room temperature, it is a colourless and odourless gas that is non-toxic.
How is hydrogen made?
Hydrogen gas (H₂) is barely to be found on Earth, but hydrogen atoms are hidden in larger compounds with other elements. Extracting the hydrogen from these molecules requires a lot of energy.
Depending on the energy source used for its production, we distinguish between grey, blue and green hydrogen. In addition, a number of chemical and refining processes in our port also produce hydrogen as a useful by-product. This type is also known white hydrogen.
Grey hydrogen is made with fossil fuels. During production, CO₂ is released into the atmosphere.
Blue hydrogen is also produced with fossil fuels, but the released CO₂ is captured and stored, so that it does not enter the atmosphere. The captured CO₂ is reused for other applications. This is an important step towards freen hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is made with electrolysis: you subject water to electricity so that it splits into hydrogen and oxygen gas. If you get that electricity from renewable energy sources, no CO₂ is released.
A great deal of energy is needed to separate hydrogen from larger molecules. This energy is released once more when the hydrogen gas reconnects with other atoms. This is what makes hydrogen is an energy carrier. Despite of its energy intensive production, hydrogen has many advantages: it causes no emissions when burned and its production can be completely green.
Hydrogen has several applications and can be used:
- to store surplus energy.
- as an alternative energy source in industry.
- as fuel in the transport sector. Hydrogen can be used in an internal combustion engine without emitting any pollutants.
- as feedstock in the chemical industry.
Essential role in the energy transition
Port of Antwerp-Bruges is a major green energy hub today. A great many companies at the port are closely involved in the production, processing and distribution of energy to and from various European and global markets. Unfortunately, this also releases greenhouse gases. Today, CO₂ emissions from the entire port area amount to around 17 million tons.
Port of Antwerp-Bruges wants to be climate neutral by 2050. This is why it is necessary to switch to green energy and raw materials.
How do we build a hydrogen economy?
Port of Antwerp-Bruges plays a major role in the local and international hydrogen economy or hydrogen chain by focusing on three pillars:
1. Production and importing
Local production with renewable energy
We get green energy from electricity we generate ourselves sustainably, through solar panels and wind farms at sea and on land. We are working on the local production of hydrogen and derivatives. This is how we are testing new technologies and have the first significant green hydrogen streams available.
This consortium in Zeebrugge is building a plant that will convert renewable energy into green hydrogen by 2025.
A hydrogen plant in Antwerp's NextGen District that will produce green hydrogen by 2025.
Power to Methanol (8,000 tons)
Construction of a demo plant will start on the INOVYN site in Antwerp in 2023. This will produce methanol from captured CO₂ and renewable hydrogen. Methanol is a potential hydrogen carrier.
This consortium aims to capture, store and reuse CO₂ to produce blue hydrogen. A major stepping stone toward greens hydrogen.
Importing energy and hydrogen
There is not enough wind or solar energy in Belgium and Western Europe. This means we need to import renewable energy from regions where sun and wind are available in large quantities.
We are therefore committed to the global supply or importing of hydrogen and its carriers from countries such as Chile, Oman, Namibia, Egypt or Brazil. There is a surplus of green electicity from solar and wind energy there. The global spread of these regions ensures that Belgium and Europe are less dependent on a small number of countries for their energy supplies. We expect the first imports of hydrogen in 2026.
To this end, we are joining forces with Deme, Engie, Exmar, Fluxys, and WaterstofNet in the hydrogen import coalition. This focuses on concrete projects that shape the production, transport and storage of hydrogen.
How do you import energy?
You can import energy in the form of hydrogen bound to another molecule. Port of Antwerp-Bruges is committed to importing large volumes of sustainable hydrogen (carriers), such as liquid hydrogen, methanol, ammonia, synthetic methane and Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier. The latter substance is a pure transport molecule. At the port, we convert these substances back into pure hydrogen that we can use as a raw material or fuel.
2. Infrastructure and distribution
Port of Antwerp-Bruges has the necessary infrastructure for receiving and further distributing hydrogen. This includes quays, terminals and pipelines. We are developing new infrastructure and increasing capacity.
There is a private hydrogen network operated by Air Liquide in the port area of Antwerp.Fluxys is working on an open-access hydrogen pipeline connecting Antwerp and Zeebrugge with the German hinterland. Any company can connect to an open-access pipeline.
Port of Antwerp-Bruges already has the necessary infrastructure for receiving various hydrogen carriers such as methanol, ammonia and methane today. We are continuing to build these up for storing larger volumes. For example, Fluxys and Advario are planning to build an open-access import terminal for green ammonia by 2027.
Industry uses both the hydrogen carriers and the hydrogen gas stored in them. Port of Antwerp-Bruges is working on plants that extract hydrogen from hydrogen carriers.
Both industry and transport at the port already consume hydrogen, ammonia and methanol today. For example, the chemical industry uses hydrogen in large quantities in the refining or production of chemicals. The market for green hydrogen and derivatives is growing rapidly: for reuse as a raw material, in heat production and heavy transport.
In NextGen District, a great many companies will be experimenting with new hydrogen-based technologies.
We are also experimenting with hydrogen for the Port of Antwerp-Bruges' own fleet. The Hydrotug will be sailing around Antwerp from 2023 and will be the first hydrogen-powered tug-boat.
- At CMB's petrol station in Antwerp, ships, trucks, cars and tractors can fill up with hydrogen.
- HyTrucks wants 300 trucks in the Antwerp port area to run on hydrogen by 2025.
- Through the PIONEERS project, we are testing port equipment that runs on electricity, hydrogen or methanol.
- Along with Port of Duisburg, we are facilitating the development of the hydrogen chain and hydrogen economy. Port of Antwerp-Bruges is a member of the German foundation H2Global, which promotes the import of green hydrogen and wants to get the market going.