A ship carrying hydrogen.

Belgium considering massive hydrogen imports to reduce CO2 emissions: "The scale of our plans is unique"

Big players from the energy and maritime sector have started a number of studies to find out how realistic a large-scale import of hydrogen would be. "In the future, we could be importing hydrogen massively, instead of oil."

This import should help Belgium to meet the climate goals for 2050; by that time we will have to slash CO2 emissions drastically to mitigate climate change. Hydrogen can replace fossil fuels as an energy source in transport, but also to generate electricity. Transport is not more dangerous than e.g. natural gas, and it is also possible to store energy under the form of hydrogen. 

Seven major companies from the ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp want to take the lead in the conversion to hydrogen, focussing on hydrogen transport, production and storage. Joachim Coens of the port of Zeebrugge says that "Zeebrugge is already a hub for wind energy from the North Sea at present. If hydrogen can be used for our transport and  to store energy, this is perfectly possible in Zeebrugge where we have the infrastructure and knowhow." Zeebrugge also has natural gas pipes at present, which can be turned into hydrogen transport infrastructure relatively easy. 

Other players joining the idea are energy suppliers Engie, dredgers Deme, natural gas suppliers Fluxys, shipping company Exmar and the umbrella organisation WaterstofNet. 

It would mean that in the future, we will be importing hydrogen instead of oil 

Hydrogen is not available in nature, but can be created by splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, using electricity. If this electricity is generated by a sustainable source such as solar energy or wind turbines, we have so-called "green hydrogen". It can be used as a clean type of fuel, for a chemical process or to make new electricity. 

However, Belgium is short of sustainable resources such as wind or solar energy. For that reason, it will be investigated whether we can import hydrogen from countries which do have these resources, such as Chile or Oman.

It would mean that in the future, we will be importing hydrogen instead of crude oil or other fossil fuels. This study will focus on how feasible this whole project would be. "This project is unique in the world, because of its scale, involving different parties with a strong will to get it done will be joining forces. The chance that nothing will come from this, is small. We all believe in it," the port of Antwerp says.

This project is unique in the world because of its scale

A hydrogen plant.