Electrification of the Chemical Industry

23-10-2017

Port of Rotterdam sees opportunities for power to hydrogen

In 2030 additional wind turbines on the North Sea will result in some 70 gigawatt of installed generation capacity, some 12 gigawatt of which will be available to the Netherlands. This is such a significant proportion of total Dutch consumption that it offers opportunities for reducing CO2. At the same time, ever more applications for electricity, such as conversion into hydrogen, are emerging. The Port of Rotterdam is enthusiastic.

The opportunities to reduce CO2 and the expanding range of possible applications for electricity, combined with the ambition to remain competitive, prompted Port of Rotterdam and SmartPort to seek cooperating with VoltaChem co-initiator TNO.

Using logistics strength

“Using various scenario analyses we investigated the opportunities offered by wind at sea, which technologies are possible and when they will become available,” explains project manager Christophe Hoegaerts of TNO. “In addition, we looked at what the predicted quantity of wind energy means for energy prices and what possibilities that in turn opens up. Finally, in this region there's not only an industrial zone but also a port involved. The region's logistics strength and the location at sea are added advantages in the transition to sustainability.”

Green hydrogen

If a large amount of green wind energy were to become available this would impact the average electricity price. Since wind energy is not constant, the difference between the peak and off-peak prices of electricity would also change. “This brings challenges, but also offers opportunities,” believes Hoegaerts. “The Port Authority can, for example, play a role driving the conversion of electricity into hydrogen at times of oversupply: Power to Hydrogen. The efficiency of electrolysers, as they are known, is ever increasing. For the green hydrogen in the buffer there are plenty of applications: from burning it to generate heat to innovative electrochemistry for the production of chemicals.”

Daring to think bigger

“TNO combines expertise in technology with knowledge of economic aspects, such as the functioning of the energy market and the costs of landing the energy,” says Randolf Weterings, business manager at the Port of Rotterdam. “The scenario analyses threw up some surprising results – eye openers. Like the quantity of projected wind energy. This may be significant, but there's not yet any question of an abundance of power. If we want to use this green energy optimally for industrial processes in Rotterdam's port, we will have to facilitate the landing of wind energy at the Maasvlakte. Space there is limited, however, so we will have to dare to think in terms of a larger scale if we are to make efficient use of the scarce land.”

Costs of transporting wind energy

Weterings also asked TNO to calculate the costs of transporting wind energy. “High-voltage DC cables are the obvious choice for transporting wind energy that is produced 400 km away over to Rotterdam. Cables like these lose only 3% per 1,000 km. This is considerably more efficient than an alternating current cable. After landing, the current can be transformed back to alternating current and enter the power grid. Or it can be used in a factory producing green hydrogen for all kinds of applications in the port. So here too there are various options.”

VoltaChem annual event

“At a certain point it is important to come up with concrete projects,” decides Hoegaerts. “In the VoltaChem open innovation program we are collaborating with ECN and companies in the top sectors Chemistry, Energy and High-tech on the electrification of the chemical industry. In Vlaardingen on 9 November we'll be holding the VoltaChem Annual Event. In cooperation with SmartPort and business association Deltalinqs. The entire industry has been invited. We will be discussing how we can set to work on new technologies and achieving CO2 reduction. To companies keen to know more about the opportunities and developments, I'd like to say: you are all welcome to attend the VoltaChem Annual Event 2017!”

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