Port of Antwerp Moves Towards Becoming Carbon-Neutral

Belgium’s Port of Antwerp started the year with an ambitious new project aimed at enabling the production of sustainable methanol at the port.

Port of Antwerp. Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

With this move, the Port of Antwerp is taking the next step in the transition to alternative energy sources and a carbon-neutral port.

To achieve this objective, the Port of Antwerp is bringing various players together. ENGIE, Oiltanking, Indaver, Vlaamse Milieuholding (VMH) and Helm-Proman have all declared their support for this project, and several knowledge institutes have also committed themselves.

“With this innovative project we aim to smooth the path for alternative energy sources in the port of Antwerp. I am proud that we are able to sign this collaboration agreement today (March 22) with five crucial partners from among others the electricity, fuel and chemical industries. Our role as Port Authority is to bring people from different sectors together, in order to face the challenges of tomorrow,” Jacques Vandermeiren, Port of Antwerp CEO, commented.

“I am very glad that Port of Antwerp has taken on this role. It shows that we have innovative thinking here in Flanders. Just like the project for onshore power, this project will help us to achieve our ambitious climate objectives. At the same time it will save primary raw materials and take us a step further in the transition to a circular economy,” Koen Van den Heuvel, Minister for the Environment, Nature and Agriculture, said. 

As explained, innovation will be key to the success and economic feasibility of this project, by combining different activities already present within the port platform such as electricity generation, the fuel industry and the chemical industry.

Essential for the port

Methanol is an important raw material with multiple uses in the chemical industry, and also has many applications outside of it.

With such a large chemical industry inside the port area, this substance is essential for the day-to-day operation of the port. Methanol is the starting point for all sorts of chemical processes used on a daily basis by the industrial players in the port. The Port of Antwerp uses around 300,000 tonnes of methanol annually for chemical processes and fuel production.

From fossil sources to sustainably produced fuel

However, methanol is currently obtained from fossil sources that can ultimately run out. By helping to introduce a new production process, the Port of Antwerp is now taking practical steps towards making the port more sustainable.

“In practical terms we will produce methanol from waste CO2 and sustainably generated hydrogen,” Didier Van Osselaer, project manager at Port of Antwerp, explained.

“The waste CO2 will be collected by a new process called Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) in which at least some of the CO2 emissions are recovered. This CO2 is then combined with hydrogen generated on a sustainable basis using green energy in a new electrolysis plant. These two processes – CCU and electrolysis – together form the perfect basis for producing sustainable methanol.”

Smaller footprint, fewer emissions

In this way, the Port of Antwerp will avoid producing one ton of CO2 emissions per ton of methanol generated.

Methanol can also be used in the future as a sustainable fuel in its own right, with minimum emissions of harmful substances, to power e.g. tug boats. The Port of Antwerp has the ambition of introducing a first methanol-powered tug in the near future.