As fossil fuels become more scarce by the day, considerable effort is being put into finding worthy and, simultaneously, cleaner substitutes. Although it may still sound a bit futuristic, hydrogen may well be the fuel of the future. A development in which the port of Rotterdam may play a particularly important role. With the purchase of the first hydrogen car for the fleet, the Port of Rotterdam Authority already casts a glance into the future.
Glass of water from the exhaust pipe
Hydrogen is a gas that is produced and not extracted from the earth, like natural gas or oil. This makes hydrogen a virtually inexhaustible source of energy, with the additional benefit that excess energy produced can be stored for later use. Another major advantage is that the hydrogen car eliminates the problem of air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. This is because only water is emitted during the conversion from hydrogen to energy. Currently, hydrogen is produced mainly from natural gas, meaning from a fossil source. However, the CO2 can be converted or stored centrally and in the long term it will be possible to produce green hydrogen, from renewable electricity.
National Hydrogen Platform
As co-founder of the National Hydrogen Platform, the Port Authority takes this renewable fuel seriously as a future energy source. Jurjen Duintjer, Business Developer Gas and Power at the Port Authority, talks about the plans: "Through this platform, we contribute to the development of hydrogen-powered trucks for container transport in the port," says Duintjer. "Hydrogen can play a major role in many areas in the port. We have already taken a first step by putting a passenger car into service. One of the reasons for this is to encourage other companies to do the same.
Range of 600 kilometres
The Port of Rotterdam Authority has purchased the forerunner among the forerunners: the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell. This advanced car – not a prototype, but already for sale at the dealership – runs like any other electric car and has a range of nearly 600 kilometres. Moreover, refuelling is a breeze as the tank is filled in less than three minutes. At present, the port is the ideal location for this car: “Here in Rotterdam, we have the first public hydrogen filling station of the Netherlands," Duintjer explains.
In terms of knowledge and location, the port has an enormous head start in a possible hydrogen revolution. "The production of hydrogen already has a long history in the port. We have refineries that produce diesel and petrol, so the knowledge and infrastructure are available," Duintjer says. "Suppose that twenty years from now, everybody has switched to hydrogen cars and trucks. What should the position of Rotterdam be if this happens? Will the hydrogen used for transport also be produced here? These are some of the questions we are currently addressing.”
The future of hydrogen
Meanwhile, the government also supports the fuel, which is a good sign according to Duintjer: “In the Fuel Vision that was released last year, a major role is being reserved for hydrogen. Demand is expected to peak around 2030, and it may just become the standard." There are two sides to this for the Port of Rotterdam: “We are in a good position to expand production and arrange for transport to the hinterland from there. On the other hand, there are not many filling stations yet, although there are in the port areas. This makes the transport route between the ports an ideal route to test the first generation of these cars."