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Vopak announces battery storage plans in Q1 results

Vopak announces battery storage plans in Q1 results

Dutch independent tank storage company Royal Vopak has announced an EBITDA for Q1 2021 of €200 million, as well as an agreement with Dutch electricity storage company Elestor to develop a hydrogen bromine flow battery.

The EBITDA matches that of Q1 2020, however, Vopak says that adjusted for negative currency translation effect, EBITDA has in fact grown by €10 million, around 5%, as a result of growth projects. A negative impact came from tight chemical markets caused in part by the winter storm that hit Texas, in the UK. Operating profits (EBIT) amounted to €121.3 million, down from Q1 2020 levels of €127 million but up on Q4 2020. Vopak has reported a proportional occupancy rate of 89%, up slightly from Q1 2020, which the company says reflects improved demand.

The major announcement in the results update was the news of the joint development agreement with Elestor, which is part of Vopak’s New Energy Strategy, to develop sustainable energy technologies, such as zero emission fuels and green feedstocks, as the world seeks to move away from fossil fuels. Elestor was founded in 2014 and is seeking to minimise the costs of electricity storage, which it believes is the ‘missing link’ in the energy transition, through the development of its hydrogen bromine (HBr) battery.

Flow batteries convert chemical energy to electrical energy. Elestor researchers selected hydrogen and bromine as they are cheap and abundant on a global scale, so they do not need to rely on expensive metals such as lithium, cobalt and vanadium. Hydrogen and bromine allow for a high power density and a high energy density. The reversible reaction that stores electricity during charging, and releases it during discharge, does not consume the chemicals in the closed system, which is completely self-contained. Elestor says its system is simple to install and easy to maintain.

The deal with Vopak aims to scale up the electricity storage capacity of the HBr batteries from from 200 kWh to 3,000 kWh in a period of 2 years, with further development to industrial scale planned.

In Q1 2021, Vopak also began operations at the Vopak Moda Houston terminal in the US, and delivered initial capacity expansion in Mexico and the Netherlands. The company expects to begin operations at its 290,000 m3 greenfield industrial terminal in Qinzhou, China in Q2 2021. The Gate LNG terminal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, will undergo a month of maintenance work beginning on 15 June 2021, following a decade of continuous, safe operations.

Vopak plans to spend €300-350 million on growth projects in 2021, including existing committed projects, new business development and pre-final investment decision (FID) feasibility studies in new energies including hydrogen.

‘The majority of growth investments will be allocated towards industrial, gas and new energies infrastructures. Our positive views on chemicals have not changed. New growth investments in oil infrastructure are expected to be reduced and will mostly be targeted towards strengthening our leading hub positions,’ the company says in a statement.

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