Hydrogen is stored and transported using a lot of ammonia. The security dangers for the ports in Rotterdam and Zeeland worry DCMR. You’re talking about 100,000 train cars every year when it comes to large-scale ammonia storage.
At the moment, the ports in Rotterdam and Zeeland are not prepared for the additional security concerns brought on by the energy shift. Daan Molenaar, director of licensing at DCMR environmental service, the port’s regulator, said as much. The transport of this material, which will be crucial to the energy transition, threatens to take place in an unsafe method with the possibility of severe events as a result of the obsolete requirements for large-scale ammonia storage.
The ports of Rotterdam and Zeeland, the working region of DCMR, will see significant growth in the number of hydrogen production and storage locations in the upcoming years. Ammonia is a poisonous material that can be used in these projects in huge quantities since it can be used to store hydrogen. The first company to make a significant investment in the port’s large-scale green hydrogen production is Shell. For small-scale local use, two less significant projects in Rotterdam and Zeeland have already received licenses.
Molenaar asserts that there is still a lot to come: “We already have a storage facility in Rotterdam that is roughly 15,000 cubic meters. There will be millions in the future.” Rotterdam is anticipated to develop as a transit hub for imported hydrogen, such as that from the Middle East.
The absence of coordination in all developments worries Molenaar. “Where do we wish to give this a place, in what amounts, and under what circumstances? has never been addressed. Do we want to focus on that in one location? How will we move it securely?”
The latter is extremely important, in his opinion. Molenaar says that The Hague must shortly provide further clarification regarding the transport pipelines for ammonia and hydrogen. “We already have a kerosene tube to Schiphol and an oil tube to the Ruhr region. For these textiles, you want that.”
Politicians are, in theory, working on such a network, but there is a lot of uncertainty around this. As a result, Molenaar worries that transportation would become fragmented and subject to all the risks associated with trains, trucks, and ships. The risk increases when more ammonia is delivered in this manner “100,000 train cars per year are what you’re talking about with large-scale ammonia storage. It’s a nightmare, that.” All train traffic passes through ProRail’s emplacements in the port, where DCMR has been enforcing fines owing to a lack of maintenance and safety measures for years. Road transportation, in Molenaar’s opinion, is much riskier.
Another issue is that compared to pipes, transportation by rail, road, and inland waterways involves a lot more transshipment. Molenaar gets the incident reports from the port on his phone every day. What he observes is that fifty liters of oil have spilled out of this area when a truck is attached. There has been tampering with 100 liters.
Oil is rather harmless, but that remains to be seen. Not so with ammonia. You don’t want it to require constant pumping over. He makes reference to a Christmas Day ammonia train catastrophe that occurred in Serbia. Large amounts of the dangerous material were leaked, forcing fifteen people to visit the hospital, but thankfully no one died. Molenaar states, “Going by the models, we anticipated that.”
The norm for ammonia storage is also very obsolete in the meantime. “It was created for small-scale storage, not large-scale storage, and it was created in 2014. So, we would need to develop those criteria ourselves. Yet, you run the risk of their coming up with something quite different, say in Groningen.”
New norms are also being developed at the moment in The Hague, but Molenaar is worried about the pace. He feels that this ought to be much higher, in part because he needs to explain what is going to happen to the locals. “Up to three years may pass while standards are being changed. Too late now.”
Task for DCMR
In addition to all the safety concerns, Molenaar sees other risks that are now underappreciated. In reality, new activities of various kinds are frequently added to the port, while aging ones occasionally continue. “We also need to build 50,000 dwellings, so that entails some noise for the environment.”
According to the director, the surge of substantial, environmentally friendly projects also presents the required difficulties for the environmental service itself. He anticipates much more labor. In order to expedite the permit procedure, DCMR has recently focused more on informing businesses that they must supply as much information as possible. “Companies typically want to perform the bare minimum. But we also spend a lot of time doing it.”
Molenaar admits that DCMR itself may operate differently. “Numerous licensing organizations frequently engaged in a two-year back-and-forth with a corporation over reports, investigations, and I know what else. Now, if a company hasn’t performed successfully, we simply say “no.” “The service also intends to give environmental permits priority. “That’s a political decision we make along with our clients [municipalities and provinces],” the statement reads.
In the end, the developments are, in theory, good news because they show that the energy transition is progressing. “Companies’ attitudes have occasionally improved over the years, which is encouraging. Yet, you will obviously lose all assistance if an ammonia store leaks and a poisonous haze covers Schiedam. your vitality, too.”