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How will companies in the port of Rotterdam achieve the agreed-upon climate targets in time? As far as raising the sustainability of their production process is concerned, many companies are facing great challenges for the short-term. Porthos (Port of Rotterdam Transport Hub and Offshore Storage) offers a solution.

The capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide – commonly referred to as ‘Carbon Capture and Storage’ (CCS) – is an important step in our on-going efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Storing carbon ensures that this gas doesn’t end up in the atmosphere. The industrial sector can use the time ‘bought’ with this measure to develop new solutions and process innovations that can significantly increase overall sustainability. This motivated the Port of Rotterdam Authority, together with Energie Beheer Nederland (EBN) and Gasunie, to launch the Porthos project. Wim van Lieshout, project director at Porthos: ‘The aim of Porthos is to store carbon dioxide from the port of Rotterdam in empty gas fields in the sea bed. The carbon dioxide will be supplied by different companies, who will capture the carbon dioxide during their industrial processes. The Porthos system can transport the carbon dioxide out to sea, where it is stored in empty gas fields below the North Sea.’ Porthos is expected to store some 2 to 2.5 million tonnes of carbon per year: roughly 10% of the port’s total carbon emissions. Porthos is expected to become operational in 2024.

This project will help our society to achieve the agreed-upon climate targets, involves a huge range of stakeholders and is incredibly important for clients in the port area

Nowhere else in the world

‘A number of things make this project truly unique and complex,’ says Van Lieshout. ‘Porthos has a clear social relevance in view of the tremendous political pressure to achieve the climate targets. Indeed, we work together with a large number of stakeholders and our clients see this as an incredibly important opportunity to reduce their emissions. And for the government it’s important to achieve the climate targets.’

‘What sets Porthos apart is that multiple clients can supply and store carbon simultaneously. This is possible thanks to the dedicated carbon pipeline that in the near future will be running through the port area, as well as our ‘open access’ system. This system ensures that every company in the port area will be able to take part. We’re really breaking new ground here: this specific approach hasn’t been taken anywhere else in the world. Porthos gives us a golden opportunity to contribute to the Paris climate goals and simultaneously strengthen Rotterdam’s port area.’

This is how it works

Companies capture their carbon dioxide at the source and feed it into the collective pipeline that runs through Rotterdam’s port area – from Vondelingenplaat to Maasvlakte. The carbon is subsequently pressurised at a compressor station and transported via an underwater pipeline to a platform some 20 km off the coast in the North Sea. From here, the carbon is pumped into an empty gas field in the sea bed. These gas fields are located in a closed reservoir of porous sandstone over 3 km below the North Sea.

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A range of specialisms

Van Lieshout continues: ‘We’re working with a very large team on this project. We handle everything from project management, permits and strategic environmental management to technology and sales.’

Unique partnership

Four companies from Rotterdam’s port and industrial complex are participating: ExxonMobil, Air Liquide, Shell and Air Products. ‘We are conferring with them to determine how much carbon dioxide they will supply, which quality standards this carbon needs to meet and how the companies have to deliver the carbon dioxide.’ He continues: ‘Porthos will bear responsibility for the construction, the transport and the storage of the supplied carbon, while companies will be setting up facilities to capture carbon at the source. They’ll also be paying Porthos a reimbursement for transport and storage. This financial arrangement is another unique aspect of this project.’ Since these combined costs are higher than companies’ carbon emission rights, as of late September, participants will be able to apply for a Sustainable Energy Transition Incentive (SDE++) grant to make up the difference. In that way companies can deliver a contribution to achieving the climate targets and at the same time stay competitive.

Moreover, it is important to ensure that all permits come in on time. The results of some 18 months’ worth of research – into the best route for the pipeline and the environmental impact of this project, among other things – will be submitted for review in the autumn.

Read the latest news about Porthos

Step 1 More efficient use of existing resources and energy


The first step towards a green port is finding more efficient ways to utilise today’s fossil-based energy and resources. According to various studies, industry can cut its current power consumption by around 20% by setting up more efficient production processes, improving insulation, adopting fuel saving measures and/or utilising renewable fuels. And by encouraging different companies to set up smart collaborations. For example, one location may have a surplus of steam, which could be put to good use by a second firm. In the meantime, we will need to work hard to develop new technologies that can further improve the sustainability of Rotterdam’s port area.

Read more about the 3 steps to a carbon neutral port


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