Barcelona Port's Bold Decarbonization Shift: A New Energy Paradigm

Barcelona Port

Posted on Oct 31, 2023 at 09:10 PM

In a groundbreaking endeavour, the Port of Barcelona spearheads an energy transition plan to transform the landscape of port operations and supply chains. This ambitious initiative focuses on shifting away from a fossil-fuel-dependent economy and transitioning into a centre for alternative fuel energy. This monumental effort seeks to decarbonise land-based and maritime port operations and revolutionise the goods supply chain.


Daniel Ruiz, the Port of Barcelona's manager for sustainable fuels bunkering and LNG, underscores the significance of this undertaking, stating that, "The reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the port of Barcelona will help to reduce the carbon footprint of the city of Barcelona and fight against climate change."


Set to be drafted in 2024, the energy transition plan is poised to outline key action areas, featuring various programs and specific projects to revolutionise energy usage within the port. With 2017 as a baseline, the ambitious target is to achieve 50% carbon neutrality by 2050.


European regulations like AFIR and FuelEU Maritime are integral to this endeavour, which lay the foundation for the Port of Barcelona's energy transition plan, charting a course toward a sustainable future.


Daniel Ruiz will be a key speaker at the upcoming Riviera Maritime Media's LNG Shipping & Terminals Conference in London on November 14–15, 2023. He notes that "By law, as a node of the Trans-European Transport Network, we will be obliged to develop the infrastructure for the supply of electricity or hydrogen for land transport or to develop the infrastructure for the electricity supply to ships (onshore power supply or OPS)."


Participation in the WPCAP working groups has positioned the Port of Barcelona to anticipate future needs for supplying ships with alternative fuels such as methanol, ammonia, or hydrogen. Simultaneously, they are developing the OPS infrastructure with the NEXTGEN project while aligning with the new IMO policy to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and reduce emissions from international shipping by at least 20% by 2030 compared to 2008.


This transformation empowers ports and compels the maritime industry to embark on its journey towards decarbonisation. Ruiz emphasises, "We (ports) must also be prepared for the supply of the new fuel or for collecting CO2 from onboard CO2 capture and storage systems."


Companies like Maersk and COSCO lead the charge by introducing methanol in container ships, while Grimaldi is ordering vessels equipped to handle toxic ammonia, streamlining the process. However, the use of hydrogen remains limited to smaller boats due to its low energy density, with ten hydrogen-powered auxiliary vessels expected at the 2024 America's Cup in Barcelona, thus necessitating stringent safety precautions.


On the infrastructure front, the Port of Barcelona is diligently working to enhance regulations and facilities for alternative fuel supply, coupled with plans to revamp storage areas for maritime and hinterland use.


The port establishes hydrogen and yard machinery charging stations within the port premises and along major port routes to promote alternative fuels. "The promotion of alternative fuels on major routes will break the chicken-and-egg dilemma and allow the penetration of electric or fuel-cell trucks," remarks Mr Ruiz. This will allow east-west traffic to find a hub for bunkering alternative fuels before and after crossing the Atlantic or sailing to northern Europe.


Nevertheless, the supply of these innovative fuels will be contingent on establishing regulations. Mr. Ruiz emphasises the next step is to lay down rules for collecting methanol, followed by ammonia, and, ultimately, hydrogen.


Collaboration is critical; Mr. Ruiz states, "We are working with IAPH, ESPO, WPCAP, and other ports to develop protocols and technical guidelines in a standardised manner for common use in ports."


In the long run, despite the initial hurdles, an energy transition plan is vital in reducing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions. It should encompass short-, medium, and long-term strategies for decarbonising port operations, forming the bedrock for port authority decision-making. Moreover, such a plan must remain dynamic, adapting to shifts in the maritime industry, logistics chain, and technological innovations.


Mr. Ruiz aptly sums it up, "The transition plan will have to be continuously revised, but the drafting effort will make it possible to establish the main actions in the coming years. It must be remembered that there is currently no winning alternative fuel in sight, and the uncertainties (price, availability of the logistic supply chain, availability of supply infrastructure, etc.) are still very high."


The Port of Barcelona's audacious energy transition plan is not just a leap forward for the port but a giant stride towards a greener, more sustainable future for the entire region and beyond. Many other ports have similar plans for the near future to be able to fulfil the goals set by the IMO for capping emissions for shipping.


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