Rail will have a role in Ghent’s upcoming circular industrial estate

Port of ghent, Source: Stad Gent - Dienst ToerismeStad Gent - Dienst Toerisme

North Sea Port (NSP) and steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal Belgium are collaborating to develop and build the North-C Circular industrial estate on the right bank of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal in Ghent. The facility will cover an area of 150 hectares on ArcelorMittal’s site in Ghent, with access by rail, road, and water. The circular industrial estate is expected to be ready by 2034.

This initiative, according to NSP, aims at helping more polluting sectors, such as the chemical and the steel industry, in the transition towards a climate-neutral port. As NSP CEO Daan Schalck is that “by as early as 2025, the port wants to capture three million tons of CO2 for storage and reuse. And by 2030, it wants to emit half the current amount of CO2 as an interim step to complete elimination by 2050”.

The definition of circular industry is similar to the concept of circular economy, with more focus on production rather than consumption. As the European Parliament describes it, circularity involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended, which would decrease the emissions produced in the process of making new products.

Image: North Sea Port.

The North-C Circular industrial estate is a Brownfield Covenant

The development of the North-C Circular industrial estate has been classified as a Brownfield Covenant. A Brownfield Covenant implies the reallocation of industrial activities in highly polluted areas where the soil is contaminated, known as brownfields. Thanks to the Brownfield Covenant Act, approved in 2007, developers can sign a contract with the Government of Flanders and other stakeholders for the realization of a brownfield project.

Specifically for this project, NSP said that 40 hectares of the site present “historic dredging sludge depots that are impeding the immediate development of the site”. Being a brownfield covenant, it is necessary to hold public events to inform local residents, which should take place in the first half of 2023. After that, the project can actually start with studies, the draw-up of a Master Plan, an environmental impact report, and an environmental permit. NSP added that forest compensation will be carried out as much as possible in the vicinity of the facility. “It is currently expected that the first spade will go into the ground in late 2024”, they stated.

Image: North Sea Port.

ArcelorMittal Belgium’s three steps to reduce emissions in Ghent

ArcelorMittal Belgium is also implementing a three-step plan to reduce CO2 emissions in the port of Ghent by 2030 and be climate-neutral by 2050. The first is to further improve resource and energy efficiency. The second is to embrace hydrogen as a reducing agent, while the final step is the development of the so-called Smart Carbon concepts.

To achieve the second step of the plan, ArcelorMittal Belgium will replace one of their two blast furnaces at the port of Ghent with an installation that uses natural gas and hydrogen to reduce iron ore. The new facility will have a Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) installation and two electric smelting furnaces. Producing iron through DRI allows for lower temperatures and fuel consumptions and therefore lower emissions. Direct reduction processes have various other benefits such as lower costs. On the other hand, DRI is highly susceptible to rusting and bulk iron is pyrophobic, meaning it can catch fire.

When it comes to Smart Caron concepts, ArcelorMittal Belgium is, for example, replacing fossil fuels by using waste woods from container parks. Moreover, the company’s Steelanol installation in Ghent is expected to convert steel gases into 80 million litres of sustainable ethanol every year. Finally, ArcelorMittal Belgium and NSP are working with Fluxys, the Belgian gas network operator, on a study into liquefying CO2 and building a CO2 storage hub.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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