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Flanders signs for a world first in hydrogen-to-methanol

Guess where the world’s largest renewable hydrogen-to-methanol installation is being constructed? That’s it: right here in Flanders! On 21 October 2020, a consortium of ten private and public partners – including Engie, ArcelorMittal and the government of Flanders through the PMV fund – kicked off the North-C-Methanol project at North Sea Port in Ghent, Flanders.

A world first

Together, the consortium partners are channeling EUR 140 million into a project that aims to turn CO2 from factory chimneys into methanol, a basic raw material for the chemical sector. The pieces of this technological puzzle were already known but haven’t been put together on this scale before – resulting in a world first for Flanders.

The equivalent of 6 million trees per year

But the superlatives don’t end there. In fact, this world-class project includes the construction of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen-to-methanol installation. Upon its completion in 2024, a total of 44,000 tons of methanol will be produced annually in a much more environmentally friendly way than the traditional process. What’s more, the North-C-Methanol project will reduce CO2 emissions by roughly 140,000 tons at North Sea Port. To compare: you need almost 6 million trees to achieve the same level of CO2 reduction each year.

Not one but two demo plants

North-C-Methanol is the first large-scale demo plant to be included in the North-CCU-Hub program, which aims to achieve a total annual CO2 emission reduction of 1 million tons at North Sea Port. The projects will see the construction of two large-scale demo plants and supporting infrastructure on the port’s Rodenhuize peninsula. The first plant, a 65-megawatt electrolyzer, will be erected on the local ENGIE site. This hydrogen plant will convert water into green hydrogen and oxygen via wind energy. What’s more, the plant’s electrolysis capacity will be no less than 6 times greater than that of the largest system currently operating worldwide.

The second installation, a Proman methanol plant on the Rodenhuize peninsula, will use this green hydrogen to convert the CO2 emissions captured by major local industrial players such as ArcelorMittal, Alco Bio Fuel and Yara into green methanol. The local chemical and renewable fuel industry, to which Cargill belongs, uses the methanol in turn as a green raw material or as a green fuel for ships and trains.

Circular showcase

North-C-Methanol is a telling example of sustainable industrial symbiosis: the raw materials are extracted locally, and the end products and by-products are used locally. As such, a new circular economy is being created at North Sea Port: waste from one company becomes raw material for another. All by-products of methanol production such as oxygen, heat and water are also reused locally. This ensures a unique and far-reaching industrial and circular integration that goes hand in hand with the construction of supporting infrastructure such as new pipelines and storage tanks to bring raw materials, by-products and end products to the right locations.

This project further puts Flanders on the map as a leader in sustainable innovation. Thanks to our ports and the industry players active there, Flanders is ideally positioned to invest in a circular and sustainable industry, ensuring durable growth and new jobs. With this type of project, we make another leap forward to becoming an even more resilient region and less dependent on fossil-based raw materials.

Hilde Crevits
Vice Minister President of Flanders

More info

North Sea Port
Reported by
newspaper De Tijd, website North Sea Port
5 November 2020

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