What’s happening with Netherlands’ first large-scale carbon transport and storage project in North Sea?

After a recent ruling by the Administrative Law Division of the Council of State, the Porthos project, which is seen as the first major CO2 transport and storage project in the Netherlands, may go ahead, as the incorporation plan and environmental permits for the project remain in place.

Porthos; Source: Port of Rotterdam

Port of Rotterdam CO2 Transport Hub and Offshore Storage (Porthos) is envisioned to transport the CO2 from industry in the Port of Rotterdam to a depleted gas field 20 kilometres off the coast and store it at a depth of three to four kilometres under the North Sea seabed.

Back in November 2021, Mobilisation for the Environment (MOB), a nature organisation, filed a case against Porthos’s use of the construction exemption. Afterwards, the Council of State ruled that the construction exemption lapses entirely because it violates European nature conservation law. However, Porthos was granted a remedial opportunity in the form of an ecological assessment.

This ecological assessment concluded that the minor and one-off nitrogen deposition during the construction of Porthos would not have a significant impact on surrounding natural areas. The Dutch Council of State was expected to make a final ruling on 16 August 2023 on whether Porthos’ ecological assessment had sufficiently demonstrated that the nitrogen deposition of Porthos would not have a significant effect on protected natural areas, and whether it would render the necessary permits for the project irrevocable.

While the nitrogen case has caused delays to the project, as the Council of State concluded that the ecological study showed that Porthos’ nitrogen deposition does not have a significant impact on nearby natural areas, the carbon capture and storage (CCS) project may now go ahead.

In line with this, the final investment decision is currently being prepared by Porthos with the aim of starting construction in early 2024. The Netherlands believes Porthos is important for achieving the country’s 2030 climate goals, as the storage of CO2 in empty gas fields beneath the North Sea reduces CO2 emissions by 2.5 Mtonnes a year.

Storing CO2 in empty gas fields beneath the North Sea seabed is expected to allow for large amounts of CO2 to be kept out of the atmosphere at a relatively low cost in the short term while the industry is working to transition to renewable energy and raw materials.

Porthos is a partnership between EBN, Gasunie, and the Port of Rotterdam Authority. In December 2021, Air Liquide, Air Products, ExxonMobil, and Shell signed the final contracts with Porthos for the transport and storage of CO2.

The construction of the Porthos system will take about two years and the project is expected to be operational from 2026.