On 18 October, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo proposed a revision of the country’s federal hydrogen strategy during a visit to the Port of Antwerp-Bruges. The planned modification, which includes the establishment of a federal hydrogen council, aligns with the government’s broader energy objective of achieving the European goal of climate neutrality. Port of Antwerp-Bruges’ strategy and projects for the importation, production and throughput of green hydrogen makes it an essential player in Belgium’s ambition to become European’s hydrogen hub.
Study gives new insights
The federal hydrogen strategy was approved late last year and is part of the transition to 100% renewable energy and climate neutrality. Hydrogen plays an important role in this transition and is a necessary link in a future sustainable and robust energy system. To become carbon neutral, Belgium not only needs renewable electricity but also large quantities of renewable hydrogen, which is produced locally but will mainly have to be imported in large quantities. One of the goals of the strategy is to position Belgium as an import and transit hub in Europe for green hydrogen.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, and State Secretary for Economic Recovery, Thomas Dermine, explained this revision of the federal hydrogen strategy in the presence of stakeholders from various sectors including chemistry, industry and energy at the Port of Antwerp-Bruges Port House. The review is based on a number of recommendations from a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study that surveyed various sectors. Specific highlights included the import of hydrogen as well as the announcement of a federal hydrogen council with WaterstofNet and Cluster TWEED as chairs.
Belgium lies at the centre of several important industrial clusters and at an energy crossroads in the heart of Europe. The strategic location of the ports, the expertise of innovative companies, research centres and educational institutions, and the infrastructure and industry already in place mean that our country has all the assets required to become the hydrogen hub of Western Europe. As a world port, Port of Antwerp-Bruges sees a key role for itself in the import, local production, processing and throughput of green hydrogen and hydrogen carriers (such as ammonia and methanol) to the hinterland.
European import hub of green hydrogen
Belgium has insufficient space to produce the required quantities of green hydrogen on its own. Local production will therefore have to be supplemented by imports of green hydrogen and hydrogen carriers from regions that have sufficient sun and wind as well as an abundance of space. From 2026 onwards, the port of Antwerp-Bruges will see its existing capacity further expanded to receive the first green hydrogen molecules on its platform. To strengthen its position, Port of Antwerp-Bruges formed the hydrogen import coalition together with five major industrial players and public stakeholders: DEME, Engie, Exmar, Fluxys and WaterstofNet. Collaborations with several exporting regions have also been established in order to kick-start this hydrogen chain. Several Belgian companies are currently developing hydrogen export projects around the world.
Hydrogen and hydrogen carriers are transported to the European hinterland via various transport modes such as pipelines, rail and inland waterways. Good infrastructure, such as open-access hydrogen pipelines and terminals, are essential in this context. To this end, the port is working to expand terminal capacity for existing and new hydrogen carriers at both port sites. In addition, the government is funding a network of hydrogen pipelines that will connect ports to Belgian industrial areas and Germany by 2028.
There will also be local production at the Zeebrugge and Antwerp port platforms. Zeebrugge is the ideal location for the construction of a plant for the production of green hydrogen due to the presence of wind farms and natural gas infrastructure. Fluxys and Eoly are responsible for the construction of this plant under the name HyoffWind. American company Plug will also build a green hydrogen production plant in Antwerp at the circular hotspot NextGen District. Its location near Europe’s largest chemical cluster plays an important role here.
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp-Bruges, says, “Together with our partners in organisations such as the Hydrogen Import Coalition, and the major players on our port platform, we are investing in infrastructure and projects to accelerate the import, transport and production of green hydrogen. Cooperation with and the appropriate support from the government is key to this. I therefore sincerely welcome this revised strategy that provides concrete direction, recognises imports as a pillar of our energy and resource supply and demonstrates our commitment to working with industry on the development of solutions to potential challenges that may lie in our path.”
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, comments, “Together with all stakeholders from government and industry, we have developed a focused strategy built on all the know-how that Belgium has accumulated over the past decades. We want to seize our potential to become a European leader in hydrogen, by ensuring the security of hydrogen supply by the second half of this decade, strengthening our technological leadership, developing a hydrogen market, and turning Belgium into a leading, continental hub for hydrogen. We believe hydrogen will play a key role in our wish to redraw the energy fundamentals of our entire continent post-Ukraine.”