- As signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement, the Netherlands and 194 other countries around the world have agreed to jointly fight climate change.
- Around 18% of the Dutch CO2 emissions are generated by the port of Rotterdam.
- The Port Authority and the companies established in the port have joined strengths to realise an ‘energy transition’ that can drastically reduce the port’s CO2 emissions.
- But how? Options include a closed cycle, biomass, carbon capture and storage and efficiency improvements.
In a closed cycle, you ensure that 100% of all raw materials (fossil and otherwise) are recycled. At the end of a product’s useful life, it isn’t incinerated or discarded, but reused. This will change the port into a place where all waste streams are ultimately collected and recycled. In addition, local industry will make extensive use of renewable electricity (generated by offshore wind farms, for example) and produce more sustainable fuels (e.g. hydrogen instead of petrol). A closed cycle only becomes possible if everyone separates their waste even more carefully. That is the only way in which we can effectively recycle products and resources. This also means that, in time, we may no longer own our own telephones and cars. Rather, we will lease them, use them and then hand them in, to be used in the production of new items. We can already find examples of a closed cycle in today’s port. For example, in Merwe-Vierhavens you can cycle on a bike path that is made of 100% recycled asphalt.
The result: 98% lower CO2 emissions in 2050 compared to 2015.
BIOMASS AND CARBON STORAGE
Companies will be replacing fossil fuels (petroleum, coal) with biomass – wood, for example. The new port area will ultimately consume little to no fossil resources. In addition, companies will capture any CO2 emitted by their plants and store it in empty gas fields below the North Sea. Realising this plan requires a large volume of biomass. This means that, in the near future, your kitchen and green waste may well serve as a feedstock for new fuels and products.
The result: 98% lower CO2 emissions in 2050 compared to 2015.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY
In contrast with options 1 and 2, putting the primary focus on improving energy efficiency through technological advancement will require less drastic adaptations from the companies in the port. Over the next 30 years, the port area won’t look very different from how it looks today. The refineries will remain operational, but they will scale down production in response to a severely reduced demand for oil products – due to the large number of energy-efficient or electric vehicles, for example. The refineries are also required to operate a lot cleaner than before. In this context, the companies also need to capture their CO2, which will be stored in empty gas fields below the North Sea.
The result: 75% lower CO2 emissions in 2050 compared to 2015.
MOST PROBABLE OPTION: A COMBINATION
The Port Authority has asked the German Wuppertal Institute to research which methods local companies can use to drastically reduce CO2 emissions in the port. We’ve set out the three key options above. Ultimately, we will probably adopt a combination of these approaches. The research report can be found here.
IS DOING ‘NOTHING’ AN OPTION…?
What would happen if we simply carried on as always? The answer’s easy: we can forget about achieving the climate goals, because our CO2 emissions will remain too high. For example, using power more efficiently can reduce an individual company’s emission levels, but it won’t be enough to meet the target.
The result: 30% lower CO2 emissions in 2050 compared to 2015.
Paris Climate Agreement and the port
- The objective of the Agreement: limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.
- To achieve this objective, we have to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2. Including in the port. Researchers estimate that by 2050, we need to have reduced CO2 emissions by 80 to 95 percent.
- Numerous companies in Rotterdam’s port area use fossil resources to produce fuels and a wide range of chemical products. While these companies generate CO2 emissions, they also have a wealth of knowledge relating to energy and CO2 emission reduction measures. This puts Rotterdam in a strong position for becoming an international frontrunner in the development and large-scale implementation of technologies that can cut industrial emission levels to virtually zero.
- We call this development the ‘energy transition’: the move from fossil fuels to clean, ‘green’ sources of power and the optimal use and reuse of energy and raw materials. This transition is expected to be rounded off by 2050.
- The Dutch private sector fully supports the Paris climate goals. Over 60 companies, including initiators Siemens, Van Oord, Eneco, Shell and the Port of Rotterdam Authority, have called on the incoming government to draw up climate legislation that sets out how we should translate the Paris Agreement into concrete measures and establishes a long-term climate and energy policy.
Four examples: these projects will reduce CO2 emissions in the port area – either today or in the near future
1. HEAT ALLIANCE
The port’s industrial sector generates a lot of residual heat, which is currently released in the surface water or air. After constructing an underground network of pipelines, the port will be able to supply this heat to local industry and greenhouses – as well as, potentially, some 500,000 households.
MORE ABOUT THE HEAT ALLIANCE
2. PLASTIC MADE FROM SUGAR BEETS AND WOOD
The port’s chemical factories currently use oil to produce raw materials for plastic packaging, cleaning products and cosmetics, but the use of oil will be gradually scaled back. In the near future, these products will be made from products like sugar beet, soybean meal and wood. Biochemical processes, in other words. This is already happening on a small scale in the port area.
MORE ABOUT THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
3. LNG AS A MARINE FUEL
The port of Rotterdam plays a pioneering role in the introduction of LNG (natural gas that has been liquefied – making it denser and easier to transport) as an alternative transport fuel. Of all the fossil fuels, natural gas generates the fewest harmful emissions (e.g. particulates, sulfur and nitrogen oxides and CO2) when burnt. This makes natural gas the premier ‘transition fuel’ en route to the zero emissions era. For this reason, the Port Authority has substantially invested in a wide range of LNG facilities.
MORE ABOUT LNG
4. RE-USE OF WASTE
A total of 10 parties are currently examining whether a waste-2-chemicals plant can be set up in the port of Rotterdam. This new plant would make use of technology developed in Canada. There, one can already find a facility that converts collected plastic waste into new feedstocks for the chemical industry. At present, nearly all of these feedstocks are made from petroleum. The new plant will present a sustainable alternative, in other words.
MORE ABOUT THE RE-USE OF WASTE
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