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The Port of Belledune’s successful role in the World Hydrogen Summit in the Netherlands

The Port of Belledune’s successful role in the World Hydrogen Summit

in the Netherlands

May 31, 2023 • Andrea Frascione Director, Marketing and Communications

Rotterdam is a city steeped in history and tradition,

yet incredibly modern. With the majority of neighbourhoods having been destroyed in the second world war, its architectural landscape is the embodiment of mid-century modern and the Bauhaus movement – evident even in the Dutch countryside. More recent expansions of the city explore a design sensibility that is more modern still: towering skyscrapers encased in glass and the pièce de résistance, the Markthal building that houses food stalls of every emigrating culture imaginable.

Looking up once inside, we are reminded of its purpose for the curvilinear ceiling is adorned in colourful digital images of florals and fruit. At night, the view of the ceiling from outside is even more spectacular as it lights up, its spectrum of colours gleaming from behind the market’s glass façade.

Although beautiful and dynamic a location as any modern city, this of course isn’t the reason the Port of Belledune team decided to visit Rotterdam. It was in fact, to sign a deal with the largest Port in Europe for a future no one was really prepared for just yet, but is upon us as we near the peak of Earth’s climate crisis. Major steps have to be taken with regards to energy supply, safety and stability and that means exploring new, zero-emitting technologies including the many variations of transporting and storing hydrogen. And what better forum to learn about that tech and make connections with innovators from across the globe than the World Hydrogen Summit.

From port to port, and industry

Prior to the conference, Port of Belledune President and CEO Denis Caron, CAO and General Counsel Jennifer Cleversey Moffitt, and I had the unique opportunity to meet with senior officials from ports both foreign and domestic to discuss issues such as feasibility, sustainability and technological capability pertaining to hydrogen production and export. Led by Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, we were also invited to visit the Port of Antwerp-Bruges – Europe’s second largest port – in neighbouring Belgium. Here, they are working diligently on including hydrogen in its new green energy mix. Adjacent CMP Tech group specializes in the conversion of traditional transport truck fuel systems to modern and zero-emitting hydrogen-powered engines. Completely stable and safe, they also boast hydrogen power fueling stations across the region for just such a purpose. The port itself has made major technological advances and is currently working on transitioning its infrastructure to be able to house hydrogen as well.

Following this, I was delighted to witness tremendous efforts by Dutch organizations – both public and private – to transition to a greener economy. Tata steel for instance is planning to phase out traditional smelting practices and erect two new direct reduction iron (DRI) facilities in the next few years with the goal of reducing CO2. As one of the world’s largest producers of steel for the automotive industry, with an output of 7 million tonnes annually and no signs of slowing down, Tata will continue to require a significant amount of energy and is prepared to completely overhaul its production process and installations to do this in a more sustainable way.

Likewise, Dutch wind power utility TenneT is currently working on large-scale combination onshore/offshore wind projects that, once complete, will see 69 monopiles (or wind turbine generators) peppering the adjacent North Sea. The mounting pads are built on the beach and then sunk into the ocean’s bed as far as 80 kilometres out. Cables are also buried 30 feet underground in protective casings said to endure up to 40 years, and the current winds its way back to a small land-based transformer station where energy can reach TenneT’s end users.

One of the Port of Amsterdam’s key areas of focus has been aviation fuel with 4 million tonnes passing through it annually. Now, it is turning its attention to hydrogen with the goal of importing at least 1 million tonnes of green hydrogen annually beginning in 2028. Its existing gas pipeline structure can easily be converted for this use. The port is particularly interested in liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) and is already producing and storing synthetic kerosene using biogenic CO2 and green hydrogen feedstock. They also have plans to develop electrolysers (used to separate oxygen and hydrogen from water) in the North Sea canal area. All this is a sign of what’s to come – not in decades, but in just a few short years.

Together, we seized this opportunity on May 10th as Belledune Port Authority and the Port of Rotterdam signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Not so long ago, many countries were hesitant to even consider wind power as a viable supplement to/replacement for traditional power sources. And yet here we are…talking ammonia and the use of small modular nuclear power to create what’s known in the industry as “purple” hydrogen, as opposed to “blue” hydrogen which stems from gas and “green”, the purest form of all, which is derived from H2O. This is a compound the Maritimes has an abundance of, namely the Port of Belledune site which is ideal not only because of its sheer available land mass and proximity to a large body of water, but also for its ability to easily export the commodity once generated via road, rail and sea. With direct shipping routes to northern Europe of approximately 2,800 nautical miles and a year-round ice-free deepwater terminal, Belledune is an ideal partner for the Port of Rotterdam. And together, we seized this opportunity on May 10th as Belledune Port Authority and the Port of Rotterdam signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

The Port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe, with 467.4 million tonnes of cargo handled in 2022. It sees around 30,000 seagoing vessels and 120,000 inland vessels annually. Its 12,600 hectares (or 31,135 acres) of surface area is unrivalled and just last year, the demand for fuel, gas, methanol and light natural gas (LNG) increased by 6.3% over that of 2021. Moreover, the Port of Rotterdam is the world’s most advanced fully automated terminal and we are proud to be associated with it and hope to gain some of its administration’s valuable insights as Belledune expands its operations.

The future is bright, as they say, and smartly powered it shall be! In meeting some key Canadian players from the Atlantic provinces and the Québec coastline, we are cognizant that the race to produce and export hydrogen will likely be one of competition in some cases, yes, but most importantly and unprecedently, it will be a story of attaining a common vision. And the recognition of Belledune as Rotterdam’s partner is the first of many steps along this collaborative, green journey for the future of our planet. New Brunswick’s value as a trade partner is undeniable; we just need to tap into it.


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