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While the announcement made a good five years ago that the Port of Duisburg (duisport) was to be one of the end points of the "New Silk Road" is increasingly raising eyebrows, the result of a recent joint feasibility study by duisport and the Port of Rotterdam is making people sit up and take notice.

Third in line with the two ports is OCI Global, a listed company and world market leader in ammonia, methanol and hydrogen. The Dutch company is already cooperating with both ports to demonstrate that the planned hydrogen corridor between Rotterdam and duisport has long since been a reality in rudimentary form and, with appropriate investment, offers good conditions for meeting the high demand from the industrial cluster in the Ruhr region for low-carbon and renewable hydrogen.

Grown partnership between OCI Global and the Port of Rotterdam.

The partnership between OCI Global and the Port of Rotterdam has been in place for many years, documented by a whole range of decarbonization initiatives. For example, OCI Global operates the Port of Rotterdam's only ammonia import terminal and is on track to triple its throughput capacity to meet the growing demand for ammonia as a clean fuel for hard-to-degrade sectors such as the steel industry. OCI also operates a methanol import terminal and announced two new green methanol partnerships in the Port of Rotterdam earlier this year: with Unibarge to develop the world's first dual-fuel bunker barge powered by green methanol from OCI HyFuels, and with X-Press Feeder Lines to supply green methanol for its newly built dual-fuel methanol vessels for common feeders. Both projects will be in service in 2024. Last month, OCI already refueled the world's first green methanol-fueled container ship of shipping company A.P. Moller - Maersk with green methanol in the Port of Rotterdam.

Demand in NRW for low-carbon energy sources will increase massively

The feasibility study mentioned at the beginning of this article highlights that demand for low-carbon hydrogen in North Rhine-Westphalia is expected to increase significantly to more than three million tons per year by 2045. The demand for methanol is also expected to increase significantly to more than two and a half million tons per year. Both duisport and the Port of Rotterdam therefore want to mediate more strongly between politics and industry in order to better match supply and demand and to accelerate necessary investments and subsidies. They are supported in this by the hydrogen initiative "Hy.Region.Rhein.Ruhr e.V.", co-founded by duisport, which the Port of Rotterdam has now also joined.

Getting hydrogen chains going

In order to be able to meet the expected demand, suitable areas must be made available and the corresponding infrastructure expanded. The study emphasizes that the first hydrogen pipeline between the two ports should be completed by 2027 to meet the growing demand for green hydrogen in North Rhine-Westphalia in the medium term. Hydrogen derivative pipelines and pipelines for the export of carbon dioxide are to follow. As before, inland waterways and rail transport should also make a significant contribution to getting the hydrogen chains up and running and enabling the first imports. According to the study, however, only several hydrogen pipelines will ultimately be able to meet demand in North Rhine-Westphalia and beyond.

Europe's largest seaport - the Port of Rotterdam - and the world's largest inland port - duisport - have already been linked for decades by rail, barge, truck and pipeline connections. The existing cooperation was expanded just last year with a memorandum of understanding on digitalization and energy transition to jointly explore the possibilities for transports of green hydrogen, methanol and ammonia.

Cooperation as the key to the energy turnaround

Rotterdam's Deputy Mayor Robert Simons: "The relationship between duisport, the largest inland port, and Rotterdam, the largest seaport, shows how important cooperation on the energy transition is for industry in northwestern Europe." And duisport CEO Markus Bangen adds, "We want to bring suppliers, users, and political players to the table to develop concrete solutions for a sustainable way of producing and using hydrogen. In this way, we are making an effective contribution to activating the market and accelerating the energy transition."

Impetus from a key technology

Martin Murrack, Duisburg's city director and the department head responsible for the port, also sees only advantages: "By participating in this further hydrogen project, the Port of Duisburg is once again impressively demonstrating its innovative strength and charisma. Nowhere is the structural change from a heavy industry dominated by coal and steel to a green technology as tangible and urgent as here in the Ruhr region. That is why it is particularly important for Duisburg that appropriate impetus from this key technology emanates from here to support the path to decarbonization of the economy and industry."