Industrie in Gesprek - Windmolens op zee

Infrastructure as backbone for a sustainable society


Hydrogen, electricity, CO2 storage, heat and steam are crucial for a sustainable society. But these energy sources should be able to reach our front doors. That is why the third edition of the online event Industry in Gesprek was about infrastructure, and the ways in which it can contribute to achieving climate goals.

Click here to read this article in Dutch.

The Dutch Climate Agreement, a follow-up of the Paris Agreement, states that CO2 emissions must decrease by 49% in 2030, as compared to 1990. Infrastructure can play a role in this. On Thursday May 28, four panel members and around fifty participants discussed the bottlenecks and opportunities of a future infrastructure. Carolien Gehrels, director of European Cities at Arcadis, kicked off the session. She chaired the Taskforce Infrastructure Climate Agreement Industry (TIKI), which issued an advice to Eric Wiebes, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate, on May 13. The taskforce focused on six industrial clusters (five regional clusters and a sixth cluster of sectors including, among others, paper and waste processing which is distributed throughout the country) and on hydrogen, electricity, CO2 and heat and steam, which are defined as the four modalities

Hydrogen backbone

Gehrels shares the highlights of the advice: ‘First of all: build a hydrogen backbone. From an international perspective, it is sensible to strengthen what you’re good at. We have a natural gas network, industrial clusters and international connections, enabling us to transport hydrogen molecules relatively cheaply. Furthermore, CO2 capture and storage is the only way forward for the industry to meet climate goals. We are lucky to have many pipelines and empty gas and oil fields. We must therefore start with the flagship projects for CO2 storage Athos (in the North Sea Canal area) and Porthos (in the Port of Rotterdam). Other clusters such as Chemelot in Limburg may follow suit. And finally: we need to use heat and steam. That’s a no brainer.’

Logical step

Gasunie is an important player in the development of a hydrogen network. Ulco Vermeulen, director of Participations & Business Development at Gasunie and member of the Executive Board, says that Gasunie is diversified and ready for transporting other ‘molecules’ such as heat, hydrogen and CO2, in addition to gas. ‘We want to play a leading role in this transformation and break through the “chicken-or-egg dilemma”. So the infrastructure is already in place when the alternative energy sources emerge.’

Many questions pop up in the chat option, such as: why do we choose hydrogen and does this lead to an exclusion of other energy sources? Tjeerd Jongsma, director of ISPT, indicates that hydrogen is a logical step in making the industry more sustainable. ‘It is absolutely a no-regret option. Electricity is perhaps also interesting, because a great savings potential could be achieved. And it is actually a bit unfortunate that hydrogen binds us to the old, heat-driven system, so we may miss innovation opportunities. The transport of hydrogen is possibly cheaper, but the application might not be.’ Vermeulen expects the Netherlands and Northwest Europe could be a competitive producer of hydrogen using a pipeline network. ‘But in the long run it might be transported by ships around the world and be produced in other countries, just like we have seen in natural gas.’

HyChain project green hydrogen

No insider’s party

During the conversation, there is a lot of attention for the cooperation with the national government. According to the taskforce, the government should take the lead, but it should not be an insider’s party either, says Gehrels. It is ultimately about bottom-up initiatives from the industry. ‘The taskforce has now been decommissioned,’ said Gehrels. ‘But we have to keep knocking on doors in the Hague and keep this issue at the top of the minister’s agenda.’

About this series

During the online event Industry in Gesprek (in Dutch), the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) discusses current topics such as innovation, AI and infrastructure with industry partners.