The mega project Porthos to store CO2 from industry in the port of Rotterdam in an empty gas field in the North Sea has come a step closer. The companies involved in the project have been granted a subsidy that could amount to over 2 billion euros.
This was confirmed by a Shell spokesperson after reports by Dutch public broadcaster NOS. With its refinery in Pernis, Shell is the largest participant in the Porthos project. ExxonMobil, Air Liquide and Air Products are also participating.
With underground CO2 storage about twenty kilometres off the coast, the companies want to prevent the greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. This technique is called carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Crucial hurdle taken
According to Shell, ‘a crucial hurdle has been taken’ with the granting of the subsidy. The next important step is to obtain the necessary permits. ‘Once we have these early next year, we can get started,’ says the spokesperson for the oil and gas company. The planning is that CO2 will actually be stored from 2024 onwards.
The final subsidy amount has not yet been determined. The government will only contribute the part that is unprofitable for companies. Normally, they have to pay money to emit CO2. Currently, the price for these so-called emission rights, which are tradable in the EU, is about fifty euros per tonne. Storing CO2 in the ground is estimated to cost around eighty euros per tonne. That is more expensive than letting it out into the air. The government will make up the difference and thus ensure that the technology is profitable. If the price of emission rights continues to rise, as is expected, the difference will become smaller and smaller. ‘In the end, probably much less will be paid out,’ Shell says.
Opponents to CCS
CO2 storage also has opponents. Environmental organisation Greenpeace finds it ‘a false solution’ to the climate crisis and previously called Porthos a ‘megalomaniac, expensive and risky project’. Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) is no fan of CCS either, but the organisation is not opposed to the technology in principle and believes it can be ‘a bridging option’ in some sectors.
The subsidy comes from the so-called SDE++ scheme of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The full name of this scheme is Stimulating Sustainable Energy Production and Climate Transition. Money from this fund is also used to subsidise wind farms, for example.