The energy transition task is clear: We aim to bring the port of Rotterdam in line with the Paris Climate Agreement objectives. Together with companies, we are working in 3 steps towards a carbon neutral port. Steps 1 to 3 are, respectively, efficiency & infrastructure, towards a new energy system and towards a new raw materials and fuel system.
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Step 1 - Efficiency & Infrastructure
Step 1 - Energy transition
Before society runs on a new energy system, there is still a lot of technology to be developed and scaled up. The first major step in the energy transition is therefore to use current sources more efficiently. According to studies, industry can save around 20% energy by optimising production processes, using better insulation, applying fuel savings or using alternative fuels, and above all by cooperating more intelligently with other companies. For example: one company has steam that another can use properly.
In the meantime, we are working hard on new technology needed to further improve the sustainability of the Rotterdam port area.
A lot of additional infrastructure is needed to improve sustainability in the Rotterdam port area in the coming years. This applies to various areas. The companies in the Rotterdam port area are currently closely connected. They supply products to each other via pipelines and cables. In the coming years, more and more sustainable products will be exchanged between companies, including steam, heat and hydrogen. We will also be generating more and more energy from offshore North Sea wind farms. The electricity generated by these wind farms needs to be transported to the high-voltage network on land. And finally, we will be capturing and storing CO₂ beneath the North Sea. New technology is needed for this infrastructure as well.
Step 2 - Towards a new energy system
Step 2 - Energy transition
Over one third of the energy demand in The Netherlands comes from industry and is mainly used to generate heat for industrial processes or the production of electricity. Fossil fuels such as oil and gas are currently used for this. This releases a lot of CO₂. For a carbon neutral port oil and gas will therefore need to be replaced by electricity and hydrogen.
The industry can use electrification in various ways to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. This concerns in particular:
- Replace grey electricity generated from fossil sources with green electricity based on, for example, solar and wind energy.
- Use green electricity to produce the heat needed in the process industry.
- Use green electricity to produce hydrogen.
The requirement for electricity in the port will only increase in the coming years. In order to be able to use electrification on a large scale in the long term, a great deal of green electricity is needed, especially from sources such as the sun, wind and hydropower. This electricity must also be affordable. And the port’s high voltage network will need to be strengthened.
This development has been set in motion, for example with the increase in the number of offshore wind farms and the landing of mainly wind energy on the Maasvlakte.
Blue and green hydrogen
Large-scale production of hydrogen currently only takes place using natural gas. We aim to capture and store the released CO₂ beneath the North Sea. This method creates blue hydrogen. After 2030, large-scale production of green hydrogen will also be one of the options. This green hydrogen is made by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. This process is called electrolysis. Electrolysis requires a lot of electricity. When the electricity used is generated by a wind farm, this process and product is entirely sustainable and the hydrogen is known as green hydrogen. However, we currently do not have sufficient wind power available. That is why green hydrogen will only be one of the options after 2030.
Renewable energy such as wind and solar power is crucial for a carbon neutral port. The Port of Rotterdam Authority considers it vital that companies in the port generate more electricity from renewable sources. For example solar power. Company buildings in the port area are therefore increasingly being equipped with solar panels. This is goo for the environment and result in lower energy costs.
We are increasingly switching to sustainable energy sources, mainly solar and wind power. However, energy can also be obtained from the deep subsurface. Every 100 metres the ground is approximately 3 degrees warmer. This geothermal heat is also an alternative for fossil fuels.
Together with NAM, the Port of Rotterdam Authority is examining the opportunities for a geothermal heat source in the western port area. If the heat (approx 170 degrees) is brought to the surface as hot water, it can be used as a renewable source of energy, particularly for the production of steam for industry.
The port of Rotterdam is an important port for the import of biomass to Europe. Wood pellets, the main product group for biomass, are mainly used in the European heat and energy market. Excellent connections for supply and transit, processing of biomass in the port, existing cargo flows and specialised transhipment and storage facilities make Rotterdam an attractive biomass hub.
STEP 3 - TOWARDS A NEW RAW MATERIALS AND FUEL SYSTEM
Step 3 - Energy transition
Rotterdam’s port area – and the associated port and industrial area in nearby Moerdijk – is an attractive location for giving shape to the circular economy. The region’s extensive network of connections with the hinterland offers an excellent point of departure for bundling circular activities. And Europe’s largest sea port is not only a major hub for international cargo flows; it is also one of the world’s foremost centres of refining and chemical production.
This concentration of interwoven industrial activities offers an excellent opportunity to valorise and utilise the wide range of residual flows that are found (and can be imported) in the greater Rotterdam area. Parties in the region are working to realise a smart infrastructure for the transport of different flows – including steam, heat, CO2 and hydrogen – as well as a joint system for wastewater treatment, sludge processing and bleaching earth that can link together a variety of companies.
In the circular economy, production, innovation and recycling are key issues. Products and substances are reused as far as possible. The Rotterdam port area, with its many circular companies and projects, is an attractive region for the circular economy. Extensive connections with the hinterland offer a strong starting position for the reuse of waste streams. Green hydrogen will be used on a large scale as energy for industry and raw material for the chemical industry. The port will also be an important import port for secondary raw materials (waste, plastic) and sustainable biomass. In addition to hydrogen, carbon is also needed to manufacture products. This requires the cooperation of parties throughout the production chain: obtaining raw materials, product design, production process, repair, reuse and recycling.
Together with others, the Port Authority is exploring how to handle raw materials. We are investing in, facilitating and advising potential coalition partners. We aim to support existing industry in the transition from fossil fuels to bio-based and circular, while also attracting new industry.
Recycling and biomass
Mechanical recycling is the most environmentally and cost efficient way of converting plastics so they can be properly recycled. The growing demand for high-quality raw materials for new plastics has resulted in a need for further expansion, scale-up and professionalisation of recycling capacity in Europe. The presence of primary plastics manufacturers and the large supply of waste and sorted flows make the Rotterdam region an interesting location for high-quality mechanical recycling.
In addition to mechanical recycling, chemical recycling technologies offer the opportunity to convert non-recyclable plastic waste into products such as polymers, fuels, waxes, aromatics or synthetic gases.
TRANSPORT AND DIGITAL SOLUTIONS
The Port of Rotterdam’s leading position as Europe’s largest port is partly due to its excellent accessibility by sea and good connections with the hinterland. But these high sea and inland shipping volumes also result in CO₂ emissions. That’s why the Port of Rotterdam Authority is taking the initiative to improve the sustainability of the logistics chains in which Rotterdam participates. We do this using such things as digital tools to ensure that vessels sail more efficiently, promoting the use of electric motors and electric cranes and by stimulating transition fuels such as biofuels and LNG. These transition fuels will be replaced in the long term by hydrogen and synthetic fuels.
Particularly container transport by road offers opportunities in the transition towards alternative fuels. Because, even just focusing on short journeys through the port (under 30 kilometres), some 12,000 take place every day. Were these journeys to be emission-free, this would save around half a megaton in CO₂.
Deltalinqs, TLN, evofenedex and the Port of Rotterdam Authority have joined forces and formulated a joint ambition: short-distance, port-related journeys by road will be emission-free by 2040.
Container transport will continue to be a growing activity in the future. A further increase in container transport by road will therefore result in additional pressure on the Port of Rotterdam Authority’s objective of realising a carbon neutral port by 2050.
At the same time, heavy road transport in the Port of Rotterdam offers opportunities for the transition to alternative fuels. There is a relatively rapid development in sustainable trucks. This increases the possibility of demonstration projects and ultimately the transition to a more sustainable transport sector.
Three important conditions have been formulated that are key to the success of this ambition:
- Availability: increase the availability of alternative fuels by contributing to the availability of charging and alternative refuelling infrastructures.
- Scalability: increase the reliability and scaleability of alternative trucks and fuels by establishing pilots, demo projects and testing grounds.
- Affordability: increase the affordability of alternative vehicles and fuels and, therefore, reduce the difference between conventional and alternative fuels by exploring the options of privileges/incentives.
To meet these conditions, the first phase will focus on constructing charging and refuelling infrastructure at strategic locations in the port industrial complex, establishing a point of contact for information and knowledge exchange on sustainable heavy road transport, exploring possible incentives to stimulate sustainable vehicles and using demonstration trucks on specific routes.
The switch to electric trucks is an option if we are to succeed in making heavy transport in and around the port of Rotterdam sustainable. But is this direction also realistic? The Port of Rotterdam Authority, together with TLN, has commissioned an exploratory study to gain better insight into the feasibility of electric container transport, both hydrogen-electric and battery-electric.
Switching to electric trucks prevents CO₂ emissions from the engine and trucks charged using green electricity are even zero-emission. Additional advantages are no local emissions and the reduction in noise nuisance from freight traffic.
The study demonstrates that the purchase of a battery-electric truck in 2024 can be cheaper than a diesel truck across its entire service life. However, optimised use of electric trucks in daily operations is a requirement for this. This demands the establishment of a good power and charging infrastructure. ‘Overnight charging’ will be required in the transition to battery-electric trucks.
Electric driving costs less than diesel calculated per kilometre, partly because an electromotor is more efficient. It is also expected that less servicing will be needed since electromotors have fewer moving parts compared with combustion engines.
Currently, however, there are no electric trucks available for container transport. This will change as a result of technological developments, price reductions and capacity increases in batteries and powertrains. It is expected that electric trucks will eventually become the optimal form of transport across many distances.
The hydrogen-electric truck is expected to only become cheaper than the diesel version in 2030, and the battery-electric truck will then still be cheaper.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority’s Incentive Scheme for Climate-Friendly Shipping is stimulating the use of sustainable fuels in shipping. The Port of Rotterdam Authority initiated the Incentive Scheme for Climate-Friendly Shipping to create demonstration and other projects in Rotterdam in which new climate-friendly fuels are used in sea-going shipping. In total some € 5 million is available for shippers, shipping companies, fuel producers and suppliers, motor manufacturers and vessel owners. The scheme will run until the end of 2022.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority rewards vessels that have a Green Award certificate by offering discounts on port dues. The Green Award is a quality mark for vessels that meet high requirements with respect to safety and the environment.
Read more about Green Award Discount
We are working towards a carbon neutral port in partnerships with companies. This demands radical innovation and new technologies. We test innovations in practice, apply new techniques and link existing companies to new ones. In the meantime, we are already taking measures to reduce emissions as far as possible in the short term. The ongoing projects show that the port of Rotterdam is working full steam ahead towards the energy transition.
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