Port of Rotterdam must become the most sustainable

Port of Rotterdam must become the most sustainable

The port of Rotterdam must become the hydrogen hub of Europe. And the most sustainable in the world, according to Henri Bontenbal and Sven de Langen. It takes an enterprising government with courage.

The port of Rotterdam is one of the corks on which the Dutch economy runs. The figures are impressive: the port provides almost 400,000 jobs and added value to the Dutch economy of some 46 billion euros per year.

But there is a downside, because the port produces almost a fifth of all CO2 emissions. The ambition must be to make Rotterdam the most sustainable port in the world. For this, it is indispensable that we position Rotterdam as a hydrogen hub of Europe. When Statesman Thorbecke submitted the bill for the construction of the Nieuwe Waterweg to the House of Representatives in 1863, he wrote that the plan would be ‘a bold job’, ‘but a work that we have to risk’. He saw the Nieuwe Waterweg as ‘a funnel, allowing world trade to connect with half of Europe, with all the countries behind and next to us’.

Thorbecke was a visionary, because Rotterdam has indeed become the funnel through which world trade runs. But there is a lot of oil, coal and gas in between and we will have to get rid of that in the long term because of climate change. The port is therefore committed to making it more sustainable. Hydrogen can be one of the important ingredients for the green port of the future. First of all, hydrogen is needed to make the industry in the port itself more sustainable. But the hinterland also needs hydrogen. Becoming Europe’s hydrogen hub does not happen by itself. Like Thorbecke, an enterprising government is needed that dares to invest in the energy transition projects of the future. That is why icon projects that usher in this new phase must be started in the next cabinet period. The National Growth Fund can be used for financing. The realisation of hydrogen infrastructure in the port of Rotterdam could therefore be such an icon project. We should not immediately focus on only hydrogen from green electricity sources.

Switching too quickly to green hydrogen can even lead to additional CO2 emissions, and we prefer not to. Only when there is plenty of cheap green electricity, it makes sense to make green hydrogen. Until then, it is wise to mainly get started with blue hydrogen. This requires that hydrogen is made from natural gas and the released CO2 is collected and stored under the North Sea.

It also means investing in the hydrogen pipelines to the hinterland, such as to the Chemelot industrial area in Limburg and to Germany. In this way, we can make Rotterdam the hydrogen hub of Europe, a hub in an international hydrogen market. But for that we need guts and an enterprising government.

Henri Bontenbal is a candidate mp for the CDA and energy strategist. Sven de Langen is alderman in Rotterdam.

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