Antwerp-Bruges, a carbon footprint heavyweight, aspires to remake itself as the world's most sustainable port. New technology has the potential to make it possible.
Ports are at the centre of global trade, connecting the globe and fuelling economic progress. Yet, with this power comes a problem: ports have a significant carbon footprint.
Prior to its recent merger with the port of Antwerp, Zeebrugge in Belgium was the world's leading car handling port. The enormous ships that dock here produce power by burning fuel. But, in the near future, these ships will be able to link to renewable energy generated by numerous new wind turbines - a more sustainable alternative ideal for Belgium's windiest region.
The merged port of Antwerp and Bruges, one of Europe's largest, aspires to be one of the world's most sustainable ports. In addition to wind power, the Antwerp Euroterminal (AET) uses LED lighting, solar panels to cover roofs, and rainfall to wash containers and cars.
Antwerp doesn't have consistent wind, and the sun doesn't always shine. To deal with this, the terminal uses new battery storage, which is part of the European Union-funded PIONEERS project. The managing director, Yves De Larivière, says that 86% of the terminal's energy now comes from green sources. This means that the costs of running the terminal are more stable. Furthermore, The Port of Antwerp-Bruges contributes 4.5% to the Belgian GDP and provides over 160,000 jobs through its cargo terminals, distribution centres, and Europe's biggest chemical cluster. Its CO₂ emissions amount to 17 million tons each year — a challenge that the port aims to overcome and become carbon-neutral by 2050.
One way to get closer to this goal is to capture, store, and reuse CO2 from industry. Another option is to switch from fossil fuels to CO2-neutral alternatives, such as hydrogen, which can be made from renewable energy sources. The port wants to become an international hub for "green hydrogen," which can replace fossil fuels in many industrial uses.
The PSA container terminal is already trying out different types of fuel, such as hydrogen. Here, more than 100 "straddle carriers" are used to move containers. All of their diesel engines put out a lot of pollution.
- Publication date
- 10 March 2023
- Joint Research Centre – Ispra