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Belgian stakeholders launch North-C-Methanol project

In Belgium, ten private- and public-sector partners have marked the launch of North-C-Methanol – said to be the largest renewable hydrogen-to-methanol complex in the world. Using point source carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and renewable wind power, the plant will generate up to 46 000 tonnes annually of “green” methanol locally, which can be used as feedstock for the chemicals and renewables industries, as well as a transportation fuel.

North-C-Methanol is the first large scale demonstrator project of North-CCU-Hub – a 63 MW electrolyzer plant, splitting water in green hydrogen and oxygen, using renewable energy from offshore wind. Oxygen will be used locally in the steel industry. Green hydrogen will be combined with captured carbon dioxide (CO2), originating from industrial point sources, in a catalytic methanol synthesis plant with an annual production capacity of 46 000 tonnes of methanol. Partners involved in the construction and operation of North-C-Methanol have signed a Joint Development Agreement (JDA) and will sign other agreements with other parties involved in the value chain (graphic courtesy North-CCU-Hub).

North-C-Methanol is the first large scale demonstrator project of North-CCU-Hub. The North-CCU-Hub programme has the long-term aim of realizing an overall annual reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 1 million tonnes in the North Sea Port, Belgium.

The collaborative agreement concerns the construction of two large-scale demonstration plants – a 65-MW electrolyzer fed by renewable power, and a methanol plant – on the Rodenhuize peninsula of North Sea Port.

Logical choice

The 65-MW electrolyzer is being built on the ENGIE site. This hydrogen plant will convert water into green hydrogen and oxygen using wind power. Cedric Osterrieth, Director of thermal activities in Europe of ENGIE and partner in the project, says it is a logical choice.

We already have a direct, high-voltage grid link with renewable energy generated by the North Sea winds. We can use this energy to produce hydrogen, which in turn can serve as a renewable raw material, said Cedric Osterrieth.

The methanol plant will use the green hydrogen generated by the electrolyzer to convert the collected CO2 emissions of major local industrial players and project partners such as ArcelorMittal, Alco BioFuel, and Yara, into green methanol in a catalytic methanol synthesis plant from Proman.

North-C-Methanol entails the construction of two large-scale demo plants and supporting infrastructure on the Rodenhuize peninsula in North Sea Port, Belgium (image courtesy North-CCU-Hub).

The North-C-Methanol project will be both Proman’s first methanol plant in Europe and its first renewable power-to-methanol plant, globally.

We are excited to further develop methanol’s potential as a clean fuel for the future. Green methanol presents a significant opportunity to bridge the gap from fossil-based to renewable energy, and this landmark project provides an exciting new model for sustainable, zero-waste production, said David Cassidy, CEO of Proman.

Factor ten expansion possible

All by-products of the methanol production, such as oxygen, heat, and water, will also be recycled locally. Over time, North-C-Methanol’s capacity could be increased from 65 MW in 2024 to 600 MW by 2030, whereby new technologies, markets, and products such as ammonia, formic acid, fatty acids, esters, and proteins will gradually be developed and integrated.

Expert partners UGent, Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant, CAPTURE, and the Flemish spearheading clusters Catalisti and Flux50 are shaping these innovation pathways.

The project will create a new circular economy in the North Sea Port area, with waste material from production sites utilised by other businesses in line with the European Green Deal and the ambitious goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

About North-CCU-Hub

In May 2016, the City of Ghent, Ghent University, North Sea Port, Provincie & POM Oost-Vlaanderen (Province of & Provincial Developmental Society for East Flanders), and CleanTech Flanders signed the CleanTech Cluster Ghent Region declaration of commitment.

In so doing, they aspire by 2030 to have innovative solutions to challenges in the spheres of energy, materials, and water. A mission that fits in with the ‘European Green Deal’, the European Commission’s plan to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050. Towards this end, various partners were brought together through the actions of the City of Ghent, UGent, and CAPTURE within the North-CCU-Hub consortium.

North-CCU-Hub has the goal of creating new value chains with carbon dioxide (CO2) as a raw material within a bio-based economy. North-C-Methanol is the first large-scale demo plant which is part of the North-CCU-Hub programme.

The North-CCU-Hub came into being in 2018 and was formalized in 2019, following an initial feasibility study, when 20 private- and public-sector partners came together with a declaration of intent towards a common ambition of carbon neutrality and Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU).

The partnership includes players from various sectors: steel (ArcelorMittal), power (ENGIE, Terranova Solar), new raw materials (Renewi), chemicals (Cargill, Eastman, Oleon, AlcoBioFuel), logistics (Fluxys, Oiltanking), and transport (Anglo Belgian Corporation).

Local and regional authorities (the City of Ghent, Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, POM Oost-Vlaanderen) and Port authority North Sea Port are supporting it all, together with expert innovation partners (UGent, Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant, CAPTURE, Catalisti, and Flux50) and investment partner PMV.

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