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Vopak Buys Tank Terminal in Port of Antwerp to Supply Renewable Energy

GPA petchem storage site on a satellite image
The location of the GPA site, just east of the PSA Europa container terminal (Vopak)

Published Feb 7, 2023 6:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

Tank farm operator Vopak has reached a deal with energy trading firm Gunvor to take over a storage facility at the Port of Antwerp and turn it into a renewable-energy hub, the two companies announced Monday. The decision marks a substantial step forward on Port of Antwerp's decarbonization journey.

Vopak is buying the Gunvor subsidiary Gunvor Petroleum Antwerp, which holds the lease to a large site at the north end of the port. The 260-acre terminal includes a small refinery, which Gunvor mothballed several years ago, as well as several dozen storage tanks for a variety of petroleum products. According to Gunvor, it has nearly one million cubic meters of total storage capacity in the heart of Europe's biggest petchem cluster. For distribution, it has pipeline connections, a marine terminal and access to a major road thoroughfare. Its piers can handle tankers up to about 135,000 dwt in size. 

Vopak will work with environmental experts on soil remediation at the brownfield site, where needed, and will repurpose the existing infrastructure to support decarbonization of the surrounding industrial petchem plants. 

"This Dutch global player has been an established value on the Antwerp port platform for many years and will continue to focus on green ammonia, sustainable fuels and finer chemical products at the new site," said port CEO Jacques Vandermeiren in a statement. "Not only does this allow Vopak to continue to grow within our port in line with the strategy of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, but we’re also demonstrating how, as a port, we’re shaping the energy transition together with businesses."

Gunvor took over the GPA site in 2012 from a financially-distressed operator, Petroplus, gaining about 100,000 barrels per day of refining capacity. The purchase was part of a broader plan to "diversify its operations to become a truly integrated trading house," a Gunvor spokesperson said at the time. The company raised $625 million in financing for operations and invested in the site, but in the midst of the pandemic in mid-2020, it began considering a shutdown. The refinery was losing money and was not expected to turn around soon, so it was mothballed. It closed permanently in August 2022, including its storage operations. 

"Since rescuing GPA from insolvency in 2012, Gunvor has been committed to operating the refinery and terminal as a responsible tenant and employer in the Port of Antwerp," said Gunvor global head of portfolio Shahb Richyal. "By reaching an agreement with Vopak for the acquisition of the shares of GPA, Gunvor is ensuring the site will have a new future under responsible leadership."