The Port Authority of Bilbao has made a firm commitment to the energy transition and to the decarbonisation of port activity, as witnessed through its decision to supply electricity to vessels while berthed in the port and to set up renewable energy plants.
The BilbOPS project is a strategic investment to deploy OPS (onshore power supply) technology, also known as cold ironing. This technology enables ships to connect to the power grid during their time in port and, consequently, to switch off their auxiliary diesel engines. In this way, greenhouse gas emissions (CO₂, nitrogen and sulphur dioxide), vibrations and noise considered as harmful to the environment and public health are avoided.
This innovative project will enable the port of Bilbao to take a major step forward in the Atlantic Arc towards achieving the European Union’s “Fit for 55” objectives. Specifically, the deployment of OPS will bring about a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases, which, together with other complementary measures to be taken, will help the Port Authority deliver the 55% emission reduction target set by the EU for 2030.
To take the project forward, technical meetings have been held with the shipping companies using the port of Bilbao to identify their needs, and talks have been held with ports that form part of the maritime corridors with Bilbao to compare and discuss the facilities to be planned. Additionally, the port community has also been consulted, 34 letters of support have been received, and BilbOPS has been included in the “OPS Master Plan for Spanish Ports” coordinated by Puertos del Estado (Spanish State Ports Authority).
The project, which will be taken forward in several stages, will enable the Port Authority to equip seven docks used by regular shipping lines (containers, Ro-Ro, Ro-Pax, cruise ships, and the new A5 dock of the first phase of the Central Quay) with the necessary facilities to supply vessels with electricity during their stay in port, and for those vessels to switch off their auxiliary engines without disruption to essential services such as transfer pumps, cooling systems, lighting and emergency equipment.
First of all, the power lines will need to be upgraded for the facilities to provide 30 MW of power. To this end, three distribution centres, 11 transformation centres and 11 OPS connection points will be set up on the quayside. To ensure maximum versatility, 20 power plug-in points will be available to service the vessels regardless of where they are berthed in the dock.
The areas to be upgraded are: the ferry terminal for Ro-Pax traffic, where two OPS points will be set up; the terminal for Ro-Ro traffic in the A6 dock; the new A5 dock; A1 and A2 docks for containers; and the cruise ship docks. To increase the power supply in the area of the cruise liner terminal, a 1.34 km subsea cable will be run from Santurtzi, as the terminal is located within the urban area of the town of Getxo and there is no electrical substation nearby.
As OPS installations are, as yet, not subject to approved or certified standards, and each vessel requires a different power supply and/or is equipped with different technology to connect to the quay (on land or on board the vessel), a versatile system capable of providing from 1 MW to 12 MW will be used to be able to provide a service for any type of vessel, regardless of its length, GT, design or traffic.
In addition, a system will be developed to provide a “zero-crossing” coupling, i.e. the OPS system grid will be synchronised with the ship’s grid to prevent power failure.
Repowering work will be done over 2022 and 2023. The first dock scheduled to be equipped with OPS will be A5, and a tender for the project is expected to be launched in the course of 2022.
At a later stage, the HIDROVAN project, a mobile floating power platform designed to generate electricity from hydrogen, will be taken forward in conjunction with Petronor, Tecnalia and Ferrovial. The aim of this project is to provide an OPS service to all the other docks not equipped with connection points.
Renewable energy hub
In addition to the electrification of the docks, the energy transition plan, due to be finalised in the spring, will include other associated or complementary actions, such as the construction of renewable energy plants in the port itself. The end goal is to ensure net zero power generation, thus making Bilbao a hub for green energies. Three projects are planned to generate green energy:
- Photovoltaic solar energy. To achieve 6MW for self-consumption, PV panels will be fitted on the inner areas of seawalls and breakwaters.
- Wave energy. A pilot 1 MW wave energy project will be run at Punta Lucero, with a view to a potential scale-up to provide 12 MW of power.
- Wind energy. The port already has a 12 MW wind power plant and is studying the possibility of setting up more wind turbines where they will not hinder the safe berthing of vessels.
In addition to the BilbOPS project, promoted by the Port Authority of Bilbao, a series of projects to be taken forward by Petronor/Repsol are also in the pipeline.
Over the next few years, the port of Bilbao will become the nerve centre of the Basque Hydrogen Corridor (BH2C), a benchmark project of a markedly strategic and global nature, linked to innovation and environmental sustainability and designed to contribute to the reduction of CO₂ emissions.
One of the aforementioned projects is the construction, by Petronor and in the port itself, of one of the world’s largest plants for the production of synthetic fuels, using green hydrogen as feedstock.
Repsol is also building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker terminal that will have a cryogenic tank with a storage capacity of 1,000 m³, enabling natural gas to be stored in a liquid state at -160ºC.
A driver project of this nature also lays the ground for our innovation ecosystem to consider providing new solutions and improving the provision of the OPS service. To this end, Bilbao Portlab, the port’s innovation hub, is identifying start-ups, and plans to develop a living-lab as part of the port’s strategic commitment to innovation, hoping to engage some 20 start-ups over the next four years.
EUR 51.8 million of investment and a driver project
This ambitious project will require a total investment of EUR 51.8 million by the Port Authority.
A grant of EUR 4.3 million has been secured through the Recovery and Resilience Facility for the financing of OPS at A5 dock. In parallel, all necessary procedures have been followed to apply for further EU co-funding for the rest of the docks through the CEF Transport 2021-2027 call for aid. Though this aid has yet to be awarded, this could amount to a grant of 30%, i.e. EUR 14.2 million.
The driver nature of the project is expected to leverage additional private investment and innovative solutions within the ecosystem. This, together with other projects already underway or approved (LNG refilling station and a hydrogen production plant), is expected to generate an economic impact of around EUR 188 million.
BilbOPS will directly improve the living conditions of the residents of neighbouring municipalities by reducing harmful emissions (nitrogen, sulphur dioxide), noise and vibrations.
The OPS service is also expected to provide a service for around 910 vessel calls per year at the container, ferry and cruise ship docks.