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Flanders is a Dutch-speaking region of Belgium with a population of over 6.5 million people. In the late Middle Ages, the trading towns of Flanders – notably Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres – made the region one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe. But if you think that is impressive, let’s take a look at Flanders’ more recent history.  

History of the Region of Flanders

Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, has historically been a pioneer for technology. The first hydrogen pipelines in Belgium were constructed in 1938. The 613-km long pipeline network is the largest in Europe and was mainly constructed in the 1960s and 1970s by Air Liquide.
 

Nowadays, the total network is over 900 km and connects all the major seaports of Belgium to the major industrial regions of Flanders. It extends to the port of Rotterdam and several other industrial sites in the north of France.
 

The major consumers of hydrogen sit in large industrial sites: in the port of Antwerp, the port of Ghent and Port Oostende, and in the major petrochemical sites in Antwerp and its surrounding areas.

Hydrogen is a feedstock for the chemical industry, and the industry in Belgium consumes enormous amounts daily. The transition to net-zero carbon emission is a big challenge for these companies, as most hydrogen is grey.
 

Due to limited space and sunlight over the entire year, green hydrogen production is insufficient for the industry. However, thanks to the experience with the LNG tank terminal infrastructure in Zeebrugge, the region of Flanders is well prepared for a large quantity import of hydrogen.

Main Players in the Local Ecosystem

Source: Dealroom report - The state of Flanders

In the hydrogen ecosystem of Flanders, you can find not only several start-ups and scale-ups but also a few established companies.
 

Companies along the entire value chain are present in Belgium. The list includes companies producing hydrolysers, businesses building pipelines and hydrogen production facilities, and companies that make fuel cell parts and high-pressure storage vessels.
 

Other companies produce entire machines like multi-fuel ship engines, fuel-cell-powered waste collection trucks, public transport vehicles, fuelling stations, water taxis, crew transport vessels, tug boats, and many more.
 

The main players in the local ecosystem are grouped in the cluster WaterstofNet, representing over 100 member companies.

The Recent Major Success Stories

In the section below, you’ll find the most recent, major success stories for the vibrant region of Flanders.

  • The Anglo-Belgian Corporation, building multi-fuel combustion engines for marine applications. This allows ships to run on diesel when moored at ports where no hydrogen is available, or run on pure hydrogen when plenty is available.
  • Van Hool constructs buses and has delivered over 60 buses working on hydrogen only.
  • CMB.TECH is the innovation department of Compagnie Martieme Belge, a shipping company that created:
    • Hydroville, a water taxi on the River Scheldt in Antwerp,
    • The Hydrocat, a crew transport vessel on hydrogen,
    • The first hybrid (marine, vehicle) fuelling station,
    • and is now building Hydrotug, a multifuel hydrogen/diesel tug boat for the port of Antwerp.
  • Cummins acquired Hydrogenics, an electrolyser producer in Flanders. Cummins is building the world’s largest hydrolyser of 25 MW to be installed in Canada, and has already built more than 100 hydrogen-producing plants.
  • Start-up companies like Ziero convert internal combustion engines to work on hydrogen. Ziero has built a 45 kVA power generator on hydrogen. They also converted a V8 petrol combustion engine to run only on hydrogen.
  • Solenco is a fast-growing Belgian SME innovator in cleantech and specialises in hydrogen energy storage systems for houses and commercial buildings. Solenco Power has developed the Powerbox. It converts green energy from solar PV and wind into hydrogen which can be stored and used later.
  • The Thomas More Technical University is offering automotive technician training where multi-fuel students are also trained on engines with alternative fuel technologies such as hydrogen.
  • The Catholic University of Leuven has developed a solar panel that also converts solar energy into hydrogen directly from water vapour in the air. In 2021, 10 prototypes were tested in an industrial setting, and are being developed into a commercial product.
  • OCAS is a contract Research and Development company, with focus on metals, coatings and applications. OCAS is a reference lab for hydrogen, with a focus on the understanding of hydrogen-materials interaction and related empirical testing. By means of empirical material & component testing, carried out in representative environmental and loading conditions, one can conclude whether material integrity is at risk or prove that exploitation in the given circumstances is safe. OCAS focuses both on new applications and the repurposing of existing assets under different hydrogen circumstances to establish the risks of using hydrogen.
  • The Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) is a non-profit international educational and research organisation specialised in Fluid Dynamics, in the areas of Aeronautics & Space, Environmental & Industrial Flows, and Turbomachinery & Propulsion. The Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) has been doing research on the utilisation of liquid hydrogen in the propellent management system for rocket launchers, including the study of sloshing or boil-off in the fuel tank, or cavitation and hammering in pipes and valves. This expertise is transferred to the behaviour of cryogenic e-fuels in the fuel tanks of heavy-duty trucks, planes, and ships. More recent research includes the utilisation of liquid oxygen (LH2) as a propellant for hypersonic flights or for satellite thrusting.

Role of the Region of Flanders for Local Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Source: Dealroom report - The state of Flanders

 

Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) promotes international entrepreneurship in Flanders in a sustainable way as a key factor in the social and economic development of the region.

 

FIT does so by supporting the international activities of Flemish companies and by attracting foreign investors to Flanders. FIT assists, supports, and stimulates companies in international business and offers tailored advice and guidance.

 

Companies can rely on their network of contacts both in Flanders and abroad. And FIT provides financial support and information on a wide range of financial incentives, country-specific business practices, and market opportunities.

 

Flanders has many assets for ambitious Flemish enterprises and SMEs, as well as for interested international companies. For companies based in Flanders, the region acts as a perfect gateway to global markets. For them, FIT tries to lower the threshold to doing business abroad and offers all Flemish companies worldwide publicity.

 

FIT promotes its services, provides information and knowledge about export, offers various networking opportunities between entrepreneurs, and connects them with potential partners abroad.

FIT also pays special attention to companies that create technologies for a better world. To this end, it has set up Science and Technology Offices around the globe to promote technologies related to improving the climate.

 

These offices promote the use of technologies from Flanders, related to the energy transition, off-shore wind capacity building, circular economy, recycling, urban mining, and many more.

 

Flanders is a pole of attraction for foreign companies thanks to its central location in Europe, its strongly developed infrastructure, its innovative clusters and R&D-friendly incentives, and open economy.

FIT adopts a tailored approach to potential investors and convinces them of the opportunities for their company in Flanders. Furthermore, FIT focuses on existing investors in Flanders planning to expand their businesses locally.

 

Innovative clusters are of key importance to Flanders as a knowledge region. FIT assists these clusters in their internationalisation process and tries to attract foreign investors capable of strengthening clusters to grow into major international players.

How Could Tech Tour Events Support the Local Ecosystem?

The Tech Tour events can support the ecosystem in different ways:

  1. First of all, by promoting Flanders as a hub for hydrogen and a manufacturing region of the required technologies.
  2. Secondly, by providing a deeper understanding to investors on the opportunities in Flanders.
  3. Thirdly, by connecting entrepreneurs and investors to create joint projects of impact.”

 

Join us at the European Hydrogen Investment Summit that is going to take place in Antwerp, Belgium on 22-23 June 2022. There will be three live Investor Roundtable discussions which will focus on the future prospects of the Hydrogen sector and will review the best financial strategies to rapidly deploy green H2.

 

Learn more here.