Aerial photo of the Maasvlakte by Danny Cornelissen, via Porthos


Groundbreaking Dutch CO2 storage-project costs soar


The Dutch Porthos project that aims to capture and store CO2 from industry in empty gasfields beneath the North Sea is proving much more expensive than initially estimated.

Porthos, which stands for Port of Rotterdam CO₂ Transport Hub and Offshore Storage, initially said in 2019 the project’s cost would be around €400 million to €500 million.

On March 8, the Dutch NRC Handelsblad daily newspaper reported that costs have since risen to at least €1.3 billion and that the project is also seriously delayed.

The main reason for the surging financial bill is, according to the operator, high inflation, making materials much more expensive than previously anticipated.

Additionally, Porthos has been plagued by the world energy crisis, NRC noted. There was a huge rise in demand for pipeline materials and other components in 2022 as nations tried to safeguard their power supplies with energy security in jeopardy.

Starting this year, Porthos is set to capture and store 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is one of the European Union-promoted proposals to meet climate targets in the shorter term. Porthos, a co-operation between three Dutch State-owned enterprises, is co-financed by the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

The project operators hope to keep 37 million tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere over a 15-year period, or 1.5 per cent of relevant annual emissions. It is one of the first of its kind and has attracted global interest.

Its main delays seem, ironically, due to environmentalist activist Mobilisation for the Environment (MOB) launching official procedures against Porthos. MOB claimed too much nitrogen was released into the atmosphere under initial construction of the project.

MOB also argued that, in essence, it meant the State was paying to reduce emissions by private companies such as refineries Shell and ExxonMobil – for which taxpayers foot the bill.

The Council of State green-lighted Porthos to move ahead but the time taken to receive the go-ahead also meant prices had risen substantially.

Further construction is scheduled to start later this year, followed by CO2 storage beginning in 2026.

Porthos is one of the first attempts at large-scale CO2 storage in depleted gasfields beneath the seabed. It plans to inject the collected CO2 into old fields some 25 kilometres off the Dutch coast.

Proponents of such projects see that approach as an important way to reduce the long-term effect of unregulated CO2 emissions, thus countering climate change.

Despite that, there are concerns about the feasibility of such plans, both technically and financially, when implemented on a larger scale. That is another reason Porthos is in the spotlight internationally.

Shell and Total are working on an even bigger project in the North Sea called Aramis, although as yet that is still in the design phase.