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Key takeaways from Med Hub Day

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Picture of Meenal Datar

Meenal Datar

Membership specialist

Tank Storage Magazine’s editor, Anamika, recently visited VI Med Hub Day at Port Tarragona, Spain. The event was held at Tinglado 1, set against the sounds of ships passing by and sounding their horns. It was the first time the event, now in its sixth edition, was held at the gallery venue. With road and railway networks on the doorstep, the portside art gallery was the perfect venue to showcase how this well-connected port could become a future hub of activity.

Port of Tarragona
Image: Port of Tarragona

Jordi Anglès Jové, Port Tarragona’s commercial coordinator, opened the day with nod to the speaker who would be bringing new ideas to the day. Port Tarragona’s president, Saül Garreta Puig followed Jové’s speech with a welcome of his own, commenting on the highs and lows of the last year. ‘The port position as a hub has been made stronger with the increase of transhipment operations over the last year,’ he said. With increased investments and storage capacity, Puig explained that Port Tarragona can become a benchmark bunkering port with a special focus on the energy transition.

And the theme of future fuels and the energy transition prevailed through the two-day conference. Kirsti Gjertsen led the first session, focused on ports and rail, with a presentation on the success story of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges. At the same time, she was clear on the need to upgrade capacity in order to be ready for the energy transition.

The storage terminals panel followed this presentation, featuring Anastasiya Mozgovoy, commercial manager at Euroenergo, Tepsa-Rubis’ general manager Núria Blasco, and Eduardo Sañudo, general manager at Vopak Terquimsa. The three agreed on the main challenges faced by storage terminals – rising energy costs, inflation, increasing instability in supply chains, low demand, to name a few.

Storage Terminals Panel. L-R: Anastasiya Mozgovoy, Euroenergo, Eduardo Sañudo, Vopak Terquimsa, Núria Blasco, Tepsa-Rubis, Jordi Anglès Jové, Port Tarragona.
Storage Terminals Panel. L-R: Anastasiya Mozgovoy, Euroenergo, Eduardo Sañudo, Vopak Terquimsa, Núria Blasco, Tepsa-Rubis, Jordi Anglès Jové, Port Tarragona.

But the outlook towards 2023 is looking brighter. Mozgovoy talked about finding new flows to increase demand, showing that adaptability is crucial in this market. Sañudo, agreed, explaining that while Vopak is working on bringing new energies into the mix, older business will not be forgotten. ‘It’s an energy transition, not a revolution,’ he said. There was also significant importance placed in Catalonia’s hydrogen corridor – which portfolio director for Vall de L’Hidrògen de Catalunya, Maria Antònia Santacreu, explained in her presentation the next day.

The final, highly-anticipated, talk came from David Sánchez at Bertschi. Sánchez focused on the Mediterranean corridor, and whether the region’s existing rail infrastructure would be able to handle increased demand. Sanchez explained that the Ukraine war, among other factors, had resulted in a downturn in truck driver numbers, so rail would pick up the slack. But an electricity surcharge would be passed to customers in 2023, so logistics would move back to the road – which is unlikely to cope with this influx due to the lack of drivers.

But good transport links are key to creating a hub, as Antonio Girela, maritime logistics operations manager at Repsol, noted in the petrochemical panel on Day Two. Giacomo Boati, an executive director from S&P Global, kicked off the second day of the conference with a look that the future of petrochemicals, especially in light of the upcoming energy transition. Boati noted that demand is increasing in Asia, so investment is going up too. A key takeaway was that the chemicals industry is entering a supply-side surplus cycle, challenged with energy volatility and supply-chain uncertainty. But with that in mind, companies are still pursuing new opportunities afforded by the energy transition.

Repsol’s Girela was joined by Michel Santa-María from Dow Chemical and Esther Freijanes from Elix Polymers for the petrochemicals panel. The three discussed logistics challenges, the desire for petrochemical companies to be part of a hub, as these can provide flexibility in terms of capacity, variety, transport links and experience.

Boati followed up with a conversation about new fuels and the energy transition, with a view that the industry needs to be more aggressive to meet the regulations set out for 2055. He praised the work being done with SAF, suggesting that road fuels will be harder to decarbonise. Boati also emphasised the importance of synthetic fuels as well as green ones.

Keeping the third session’s focus on future fuels, Maria Antònia Santacreu, portfolio manager at Vall de L’Hidrògen de Catalunya, shared the progress of Catalonia’s hydrogen valley. The holistic project aims to fully decarbonise the region, producing and storing hydrogen and distributing it across sectors.

The final talk saw Peninsula’s head of alternative fuels and sustainability, Nacho de Miguel, speak about alternative ports and the future of bunkering. De Miguel’s pragmatic view was an insight into the minds of ship owners. ‘They don’t want experiments; they want something they can use for 20 years or more,’ he said. Customers decide what fuels they want to use, store and run on – it’s up to ports and bunkering operations to be able to access and provide those products.

The general consensus of the conference was clear to all – Port Tarragona is in an excellent position to become an energy transition hub. With an abundance of hydrogen potential and space to increase capacity for customers, there’s real potential. The real question is how?

Tank Storage Magazine is looking forward to the next instalment of Med Hub Day, hopefully with even more insight into the energy transition.

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