The future of renewable energy

Jesper Raakjaer, group chief visionary officer at the Port of Aalborg, and a professor in port development, voices the logistical challenges and possibilities facing the future of renewables, and the roles of circularity and symbioses for effecting a sustainable green transition.

Jesper Raakjær, group chief visionary officer, Port of Aalborg
Jesper Raakjær, group chief visionary officer, Port of Aalborg

Huge expansion in renewable energy is necessary, not only to decarbonise mass transport through the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs), as well as heating, but also in other sectors that cannot be addressed through direct electrification.

Decarbonise domestic industries and meet future export demand

By directing renewable electricity supplies to “power” electrolysers, together with water, hydrogen is produced. Processing the green gas into e-methanol or other synthetic fuels in power-to-x (PtX) plants can decarbonise heavy road transport, shipping and aviation, as well as a raft of heavy industries, from chemicals to steel making.

The PtX market is only getting started but governments around the world are seizing its potential. The EU wants to see 10m tonnes of green hydrogen produced on the continent, equivalent to 100 GW of electrolysers. The Danish government published a PtX policy statement in 2022, in which it outlined ambitions for producing green hydrogen and synthetic fuels to decarbonise domestic industries as well as meet future export demand.

Close collaboration across the value chain is key

Recognising that green fuels and energy are critical to reaching net zero, at Aalborg we are setting out a blueprint for developing and scaling these industries in the most sustainable way. Achieving this can only be done through close collaboration and cooperation across the value chain, spanning academia/R&D, start-ups, industrial producers, renewable energy companies, authorities and end users.

Having Siemens Gamesa and Bladt Industries located at Aalborg enables us to help the industry prepare for the logistical challenges ahead when it comes to producing and handling super-sized turbines and foundation structures that will be a feature of future offshore wind farms planned off the coast of Denmark.

This additional offshore wind capacity will produce electricity in quantities to meet demand from industrial sized PtX plants.

European Energy is developing PtX projects on sites at the Port of Aalborg. One is a PtX facility, which will produce 100,000 tonnes of e-methanol and start production in 2027. The other, supported by the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Programme (EUDP), will set up a test facility that can convert e-methanol to eSAF (sustainable aviation fuel).

"At Aalborg we are setting out a blueprint for developing and scaling these industries in the most sustainable way."

- Jesper Raakjær

The port will further establish a value chain for PtX when it hosts a PtX e-methanol lab later in 2023, which is being relocated from the University of Aalborg. The facility, planned to go live from September, will help companies address challenges in scaling up PtX in commercial facilities, reducing the complexity and cost in producing hydrogen from electrolysis and synthesis into commodity fuels. The quantities of e-methanol produced from the PtX lab will be used to decarbonise local sectors, such as shipping and heavy transport.

The Port of Aalborg is committed to ensuring a sustainable green transition. Blaest’s wind testing facilities help to ensure next-generation turbines can achieve optimal productivity. Meanwhile, world-leading wind research at the University of Aalborg is advancing power electronics, hardware and controls that ensure clean energy generated by turbines is converted into grid-ready electricity, by minimising losses in conversion.

Taking industrial symbiosis from concept to commercial reality

The Port of Aalborg’s green transition rests on promoting the “industrial symbiosis approach”. This is underpinned by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to enable truly sustainable growth, where resources – energy, waste, water, raw materials – are reused or recycled.

Having contributed to the development of symbioses through various projects, including the Miljø++ project (2016-2020), which is now in its second phase as Miljø++ 2.0 (2020-2028), the port is ready to bed these into commercial and industrial activities in the area.

Nearby Aalborg Portland, which is Denmark’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter, is developing a process that will capture carbon dioxide from cement production, so that the gas can potentially be used in the production of e-methanol in PtX plants. The concept shows an example of the symbioses approach where materials defined as a waste product produced by one process, is a valuable resource or commodity in another.

Jesper Raakjær: “We are committed to ensuring a sustainable green transition, and in Aalborg it rests on the production of green energy and on promoting the “industrial symbiosis approach.””

Building on Aalborg’s history of reusing waste heat from electricity production for district heating, there are plans to continue to use heat waste from processes to meet growing demand for district heating in the region. Currently, the surplus heat from the cement production at Aalborg Portland is covering approximately 40% of the demand in Aalborg, being one of the first symbiosis established. With plans to close the coal fired power plant at Nordjyllandsværket in 2028 more symbioses are to come. Surplus heat generated at the wastewater treatment plant and a water heat pump placed in the Limfjord are two plans to secure sustainable heat to the citizens

The Port of Aalborg continuously tries to push the boundaries of what is needed to secure a green transition. It is well known that water is an important ingredient in the value chain of CCUS and that clean water is a scarce resource. So, we’re also exploring the possibility of reclaiming water from rainfall, process water and other types of water, for use in PtX facilities, which require water for cooling the technical equipment as well as for the electrolysis process itself when making hydrogen.

The green transition – exemplified by renewable energy (offshore wind), green hydrogen and PtX – can lead to new industrial activity, jobs and sources of revenues here in Aalborg.

Yet, the growth needs to occur sustainably, minimising emissions, materials and resources consumption wherever possible. Implementing circular economy and symbiosis concepts cannot happen without the value chain working together to identify opportunities and executing them in a way that enhances businesses.

In Aalborg we’re practising what we preach, to deliver green growth, without greenwashing.

Visit Port of Aalborg on Stand D-F38 at WindEurope Copenhagen on 25-27 April 2023.

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