Dutch Ports Prepare

The Port of Amsterdam is just one of many Dutch ports planning for biomass handling
By Luke Geiver | January 25, 2012

The Port of Amsterdam in the Netherlands already handles 1.5 million metric tons (1.65 million tons) of biomass every year, but that’s not stopping it from making major handling, storage and infrastructure upgrades. By 2020, the port’s managing director of the commercial department, Koen Overtoom, believes the volume handled will expand to 13.4 million metric tons per year.

“The Port of Amsterdam is strong in energy,” Overtoom says. Most of the cargo shipped through the port consists of oil and coal, but based on several factors inside and outside of the Dutch country, Overtoom thinks the port’s role in handling biomass will only get stronger.

First, Overtoom points to the Dutch government’s 2011 energy report, which includes proposals to make biomass use mandatory in the country’s coal-fired energy plants. Second, the energy report calls for an increase in renewable energy from the 4 percent that has been used since 2010, to 14 percent by 2020. And third, Overtoom recognizes the impact other European countries’ energy strategies has on the Netherlands.

Because Germany plans to phase out nuclear power stations by 2020, and the European Union has a greater focus on utilizing cleaner burning fuels, Overtoom says biomass imports at his facility will increase. By 2020, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia and the U.K. will require 15 million metric tons of biomass per year.

Hans Mattheyer, manager of the commercial department at the Bulk Terminal of Amsterdam, agrees with Overtoom. “These developments will strongly increase Amsterdam’s potential to play an important role in biomass logistics,” he says. The bulk storage terminal already has five storage facilities under the cranes that can store up to 110,000 metric tons, and if or when demand increases, Mattheyer is prepared to expand using covered storage.

The Port of Amsterdam also reports that a dry bulk cargo terminal operated by IGMA, a subsidiary of Cargill Inc., is negotiating with biomass manufacturers, making the most progress with a Georgia, U.S.,-based wood pellet supplier. IGMA plans to ship roughly 200,000 metric tons of biomass to Germany and the Netherlands by the end of the year, and the terminal company will build 5,000 square meters of storage.

“International energy companies are taking advantage of the favorable location and attractive business climate in the Netherlands to install new electricity production capacity,” the Dutch government’s 2011 energy report states. In addition to the Port of Amsterdam’s activity regarding biomass import growth preparation, it is also working with the Port of Duisburg to redevelop a transshipment terminal for the storage and transfer of biomass for customers shipping from Amsterdam.

In the Port of Delfzijl in the northern region of the Netherlands, energy developer Eneco is forgoing port development altogether, choosing instead to construct a 50 MW woody biomass power plant right at the port.

Overtoom says he is confident that his port will grow based on future developments linked to biomass, including the port’s specialized handling abilities. Given the 600-plus students who complete logistics courses in the Port of Amsterdam area every year, Overtoom’s biomass perspective is strong.

—Luke Geiver