Ports as decarbonisation hubs – Insights from an interview with FedEx on Bellona Europa’s Ports2Decarb Project

Publish date: June 25, 2024

In October 2023, Bellona Europa announced a new FedEx-backed initiative Ports2Decarb – a project aiming to maximise the role of European sea and river ports in building the infrastructure needed to support industrial decarbonisation. Eight months later – what has the project achieved so far?

As logistical, industrial and infrastructure hubs, ports can enable the climate change mitigation potential of a wide range of sectors. By acting as an intermediary for the transport of captured CO2 to offshore storage sites, they will play a key role in achieving a European CO2 transport and storage network. Many ports have a large industrial cluster on site, linked to high-quality jobs and as such, they carry a heavy political and economic weight. As a result, they can be major catalysts for climate action by picking the right solutions for the energy transition.

FedEx interviewed Michał Wendolowski, Senior Climate Technology and Policy Manager, to learn more about the project. Michał delves into the vital role of ports in securely transporting and storing CO2, underscoring Bellona Europa’s active collaboration and research endeavors in this domain.

How did the collaboration between Bellona and FedEx for this project come about?

Michał: “FedEx reached out looking for ways to use FedEx Cares charitable giving to support wider regional decarbonisation goals in Europe. We understood that FedEx actively seeks partnerships with non-profit climate advocacy organisations like ours who are already experienced convening experts, connected to decision makers and collaborating to make better policy recommendations. FedEx was looking to identify a project opportunity with links to carbon capture, transportation, and storage (CCS) but which had relevance and impact at home here in Europe.”

Can you tell us about the Ports2Decarb project and why it is needed?

Michał: “Europe has ambitious climate goals and as a continent is striving to achieve a state of net-zero emissions. There are several sectors, notably heavy industry such as steel, chemicals, and cement, that are considered ‘hard to abate’. Together these account for around 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, which aren’t considered possible to reduce to zero in the near term.

While technological solutions can be engineered to capture emissions from these industries at source, the foundations of a physical network that can transport carbon across country borders to sites of geological storage needs to be considered before solutions can scale.

Currently, all carbon storage in Europe is offshore in the continental shelf of the North Sea, so ports are well placed geographically – and in their existing role as energy hubs – to become not only the future hubs for solutions like hydrogen, but also carbon transportation and storage.

We requested charitable funding from FedEx to put towards our new Ports2Decarb project, which enables us to combine the thirty years of experience Bellona already has on CCS, with a decade of experience exploring the potential of Europe’s ports as an enabler in the net-zero transition.”

Antwerp-Bruges port, where Michał points to a former coal storage facility on the port’s premises.

What has FedEx charitable funding helped Bellona to accomplish so far?

Michał: “Bellona sets out to bring science and foresight into policy making. This will be key to realising an open access, pan-EU large scale CO2 carbon capture transport and storage network. We presented the project to expert audiences at the Baltic Carbon Forum last October and since then have visited several ports. The first port – Antwerp-Bruges – is emerging as a frontrunner in establishing capabilities for carbon capture, transport, and storage with plans to convert a former coal storage depot into a CCS facility.

Thanks to this grant funding we’ve been able to create opportunities, roundtables and onsite meetings that convene stakeholders and open new channels for dialogue between the European Commission and ports in Europe. We organised a roundtable at the EU Parliament in March to convene EU policy makers, with individual ports (Antwerp-Bruges) and coalitions such as European Sea Ports Organisation. More recently, we discussed joint actions with other major ports, including Haropa Port – which combines Paris, Le Havre and Rouen in what’s called the ‘first port of France’.

We’ve participated in sectoral engagement and moderated a launch event for a recently published paper on carbon transport by ship by the Zero Emissions Platform – a key advisory body to the European Commission on CCS.”

What’s next for the collaboration?

Bellona Europa will continue its work with ports to decarbonise heavy industries, through its Ports2Decarb Project. Looking ahead, the Project sets its sights on expanding its impact globally, aiming to showcase Europe’s foundational work on an international stage at COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan, in November 2024.

Read our previous press release here. Follow Bellona Europa’s activities and the Ports2Decarb project on LinkedIn

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