As early as next year, market gardeners and fruit farms in Zuidplaspolder will be able to benefit from industry-released CO2 in their greenhouses. Today, Minister Tineke Huizinga for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment gave the green light for the construction of the required pipe system.
OCAP is responsible for the supply of carbon dioxide to Zuidplaspolder. OCAP currently also supplies CO2 to market gardeners and horticulturists in the Westland region and the so-called B-triangle, but this concerns only CO2 released by a Shell refinery in Pernis. OCAP’s second source, which facilitates expansion of the pipe system to destinations including Zuidplaspolder, is the recently commissioned Abengoa bioethanol plant in Europoort. Initially, some forty horticulturists will start to re-use this CO2. In the event of further development of the horticultural area in Zuidplaspolder, this system will have sufficient capacity for the connection of newly arriving horticulturists as well.
The expansion of the network will yield an annual saving of 25 million m3 of natural gas, equal to the natural gas consumption of all inhabitants of the recently created municipality of Zuidplas (40,000 inhabitants). The total volume of avoided CO2 emissions that can thus be achieved amounts to 45 kilotons a year.
The Zuidplaspolder project involves an investment of between 35 and 40 million euros, five million of which consists of a subsidy granted by the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment and the Province of South-Holland for the sustainable development of Zuidplaspolder. The European Commission is expected to authorize this subsidy in autumn of this year. The connection of Zuidplaspolder to the OCAP network is a precondition for the development of sustainable greenhouse farming. At the start of the project, Minister Huizinga pointed out once more that the development of sustainable greenhouse farming is extremely important, mentioning in this respect the fact that this sector serves as an example that is admired and imitated far beyond Dutch borders.
The use of CO2 in greenhouses
In their greenhouses, horticulturists carefully manage CO2 levels in order to promote the growth of their crops. For an adequate supply of CO2, they use purified flue gases from their heating boilers. As plants mainly require CO2 at times when there is sufficient light and heat available, these horticulturists need to fire their boilers a lot also in summer months. The heat that is released in the process, cannot be used. In 2005, OCAP started up the supply of CO2 to the horticultural sector, so that market gardeners no longer needed to burn natural gas to produce CO2 themselves. This pure CO2 originated from a Shell refinery in Pernis.
An existing pipe system and a specially constructed distribution network now transport the CO2, that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere through a chimney, to the greenhouses, providing the horticulturists with very affordable and very pure CO2. In addition, the fact that no more flue gases are required to meet the need for CO2 opens up the possibility for greenhouse farms to switch from using fossil energy to the use of renewable energy, such as geothermal power and residual heat. This will significantly benefit both the economy and the environment.
Reliability of supply
In addition to increasing the number of horticulturists who can benefit from this CO2, the supply of CO2 by Abengoa also increases the reliability of supply to the 500 horticulturists in the Westland region and the B-triangle who currently already use OCAP CO2. Continuous availability of CO2 is of vital importance to market gardeners. Persistent supply problems at Shell have put great pressure on this reliability in the past year. The availability of two different sources of CO2 will help to reduce susceptibility to faults.
OCAP has the ambition to expand the supply in North- and South-Holland to a total of 1 megaton of CO2. This goal cannot be realized unless more sources of pure CO2 are added. After all, cultivation under glass requires guaranteed high-quality CO2. However, production processes releasing pure CO2 as a residue are scarce. This means that in future, we will have to invest in capture and purification of less pure CO2, such as flue gases released in power generation. This is a costly process that cannot be realized without the proper incentives provided by parties including the government.
Expansion of the OCAP network
For the delivery of CO2 to Zuidplaspolder, the Abengoa plant will be connected to the existing pipeline transporting OCAP CO2 via a 2.5 km long pipeline. Just north of Zoetermeer, this pipeline will be branched off in the direction of Zuidplaspolder. Here, the CO2 is directed to a reducing station and onto the distribution network in Zuidplaspolder, measuring a total of 18.5 km.
For the largest part, the network will be installed using the open cut method. In over fifteen locations where this is not an option, the drilling method will be applied. Visser & Smit Hanab will start up the activities next week, and the expected time of delivery of the distribution network is mid-April 2011. August of next year is the expected time of commissioning of the installation in which the CO2 will be captured and compressed at Abengoa. In the meantime, the horticulturists in Zuidplaspolder can already use the current source of CO2, provided that there is sufficient CO2 available.
Residual heat project
The fact that OCAP now has a second source available with sufficient capacity to meet the demand in Zuidplaspolder furthermore enables the horticulturists in the B-triangle that are currently using flue gas CO2 supplied by Eneco to be connected to the network. These market gardeners participating in the RoCa project are currently supplied heat and CO2 by Eneco that is produced by E.ON. The delivery of CO2 would stop after 2015. OCAP will now start to deliver CO2 to Eneco, providing assurance for the continuity of the RoCa project and ensuring that environmental benefits are preserved in future. For this purpose, OCAP and Eneco have signed a preliminary agreement. For the existing clients of OCAP and for the horticulturists in Zuidplaspolder this will have no consequences. The amount of CO2 released at Abengoa will initially exceed the greenhouse farm demand in Zuidplaspolder. By the time the newly to be developed areas in Zuidplaspolder will need to be supplied (expected to start from 2013), OCAP will have sufficient CO2 available to supply them as well.