ArcelorMittal Belgium and North Sea Port are to build industrial estate the North-C Circular

3 January 2023

North Sea Port, ArcelorMittal Belgium and all the port companies have committed themselves to a climate-neutral port by 2050. This will be achieved by reducing CO2 emissions and further developing the circular economy. To this end, the North-C Circular industrial estate is being developed in Ghent.

The development of the North-C Circular industrial estate is a joint initiative by North Sea Port and ArcelorMittal Belgium. Together, they will develop an industrial estate on the right bank of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal in Ghent. The site lies between Rodenhuizedok, the port ring road R4 and the ArcelorMittal Belgium site. It is part of the port area that is designated for companies based in the seaport and along the waterways. The intention is to prepare this 150-hectare site for construction, install basic infrastructure like utilities, provide access by road, rail and water and move in companies geared towards circular activities.

Brownfield covenant to utilise unused land

A brownfield covenant is being drawn up for the entire site between North Sea Port, ArcelorMittal Belgium and the Flemisch government. On 40 hectares of this site there are historic dredging sludge depots that are impeding the immediate development of the site. The covenant will enable this underutilised land to be transformed into an industrial estate in a comprehensive and structured manner and its use extended. The accompanying forest compensation will be carried out as much as possible in the vicinity.

North Sea Port and ArcelorMittal Belgium working towards a climate-neutral port

When work on the industrial estate is completed, it will be ready to accommodate economic activities focused on reducing CO2 emissions, the energy transition from fossil to renewable raw materials, the circular economy and partnerships with companies in the surrounding area. These companies will then contribute to making the port and ArcelorMittal Belgium climate-neutral.

“After all, North Sea Port is supposed to be a climate-neutral port by 2050. By as early as 2025, the port wants to capture 3 million tons of CO2 for storage and reuse. And by 2030, it wants to emit half the current amount of CO2 as interim step to complete elimination by 2050”, says North Sea Port CEO Daan Schalck. In addition, by 2025 the port wants to have 150 hectares of land ready for circular projects. By that date, the port also wants to attract 10 circular activities with innovative technologies or processes that can enable sectors like chemicals and steel to make the transition to a climate-neutral port.

“ArcelorMittal Belgium is passionate about sustainability and circularity and is playing an absolute pioneering role within industry in terms of the climate transition”, says CEO Manfred Van Vlierberghe. ArcelorMittal Belgium is working hard to implement an action plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 35% by 2030 (compared to 2018) and to be climate-neutral by 2050. This action plan consists of three axes.
The first is to further improve resource and energy efficiency.
The second is to embrace hydrogen as a reducing agent. ArcelorMittal Belgium has two blast furnaces that primarily use carbon to draw oxygen from the iron ore. One blast furnace will be replaced by an installation that uses natural gas and hydrogen to reduce iron ore. This investment consists of a DRI (Direct Reduced Iron) installation and two electric smelting furnaces.
The third and final axis of the action plan is the development of ‘Smart Carbon concepts’ in the heart of the circular economy. ArcelorMittal Belgium is replacing fossil carbon with green and circular carbon: using waste wood from container parks as part of the Torero project is an example of this. ArcelorMittal Belgium is active in the field of Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU). For instance, the Steelanol installation will convert steel gases into 80 million litres of sustainable ethanol per year. For the purposes of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), ArcelorMittal Belgium is working with the Belgian gas network operator Fluxys and North Sea Port on a study into liquefying CO2 and building a CO2hub.

“The development of North-C Circular is an essential step in the further development of these Smart Carbon concepts”, concludes CEO Manfred Van Vlierberghe.

First spade to go into the ground in late 2024

An information and public participation event for local residents and businesses will take place in spring 2023. The final brownfield covenant is expected to be in place by summer 2023, after approval by all stakeholders. After that, in 2023 and 2024 preparations for the project execution can take place (studies, drawing up the Masterplan, environmental impact report, environmental permit). It is currently expected that the first spade will go into the ground in late 2024. That will signal the start of preparing the site for construction, tackling the dredging sludge depots, constructing the basic infrastructure and developing the industrial estate business park with attention to buffering and landscaping. In total, this work will take ten years.