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Benelux ports agree project to store CO2 in depleted offshore gas fields

14 May 2019

The ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Ghent, which account for one-third of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg region, have agreed on a project to capture and pipe carbon dioxide into cavities below the North Sea. A number of companies with greenhouse gas emitting plants near the ports have also registered interest in the so-called Porthos carbon capture and storage (CCS) project.

Image: Port of Rotterdam Authority
Image: Port of Rotterdam Authority

It is hoped the project could be completed by 2030 but the scale of the storage, in two empty gas fields, is unprecedented and raises questions about how the CO2 will affect the deep subsurface, according to the Dutch government.

The EU has already recognised the project as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) and has provided a €6.5 million subsidy for follow-up studies. PCI status has also been requested for the coming project phase.

The objective of the project is to achieve a generally accessible transport and storage infrastructure into which many different parties can supply CO2. The aim is to store between 2 and 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year in depleted offshore gas fields.

Total investment costs for this are estimated at €400 to €500 million, making this a project in which CO2 emissions can be reduced for a relatively low cost in comparison with other reduction measures, the project leaders say.

A final go-ahead decision is expected to be taken by the end of 2020 and likely depends on the levels of EU and national government support available.

In 2009, the European commission committed €1bn to finance six pilot CCS projects with the hope of having 12 schemes up and running by 2015. Due to the high costs, none of the projects were developed.

More than 70% of the 30m tons of CO2 captured annually by facilities for use or storage is captured in North America.

The largest initiative in the world to date is the Petra Nova project in Texas, which was launched in 2017 and is attached to a coal-fired power station. It has an annual capture capacity of 1.4m tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of the emissions produced by 350,000 cars.

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