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Uniper and Port of Rotterdam Move Ahead With Green Hydrogen Plant

hydrogen
The recently-built coal fired powerplant at Uniper's Maasvlakte site (Uniper)

Published Sep 6, 2021 5:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

The energy company Uniper has signed an MOU with the Port of Rotterdam Authority for developing the production of green hydrogen at Uniper's current location at Maasvlakte. The project builds on the findings of a feasibility study announced in February, and it aligns with regional infrastructure planning to meet the demands of Rotterdam's booming petrochemical industry. 

Uniper says that the MOU marks a major milestone in the development of the hydrogen value chain in the Rijnmond region. No less than half of all Dutch hydrogen projects that qualify as Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) are developed in Rotterdam, and the Uniper project is on the Dutch IPCEI shortlist as well.

The feasibility study shows that the Uniper location on Maasvlakte is ideal for large-scale production of green hydrogen using power generated by offshore wind farms. The plant will be connected to the future HyTransport.RTM hydrogen pipeline, which will link to the rest of the port, the national hydrogen infrastructure and the Delta Corridor pipeline bundle. The latter will deliver hydrogen to chemical plant clusters in Moerdijk, Geleen and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Uniper's Maasvlakte site is currently home to a modern coal fired power plant, which just opened in 2016. The Dutch Coal Prohibition Act will force the plant to close by January 1, 2030, far before the end of its expected commercial life, and Uniper says that a conversion of the facility to a different fuel is not realistic. The company has been seeking compensation from the Dutch government for the loss of its investment in the plant, and it has filed a lawsuit to challenge the Act's legitimacy. Over the longer term, it says that it is planning to green its business and achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. 

“The industry has to go through a massive change in making its business processes more sustainable,” said Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Hydrogen will play a central role in this process. We are working with partners towards the introduction of a large-scale hydrogen network across the port complex, making Rotterdam an international hub for hydrogen production and import and for the transit of hydrogen to other countries in Northwestern Europe."

Industrial hydrogen is primarily produced from natural gas, resulting in CO2 emissions that amount to 19 million tonnes per year in the Netherlands. Industry in the Rotterdam area consumes about 40 percent of the nation's total hydrogen output, so the transition from grey hydrogen to green hydrogen in Rotterdam's petchem industry could be a significant step towards carbon neutrality. 

The plant's initial target is for 100MW of electrolysis capacity, with a future capacity increase to 500MW. After a nine-month engineering and design study, the project will be bid out for an EPC contractor. Uniper plans to seek financial support from government agencies and from other partners in the hydrogen value chain, with an aim to make a final investment decision next year. 

“There is a host of opportunities, not only for Uniper but also for other players in the chain. Together we can use sustainable hydrogen to reduce CO2 levels in Rotterdam significantly," said Axel Wietfeld, CEO of Uniper Hydrogen.