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Dutch court carbon capture project ruling alarms building sector

Due to its failure to comply with European environmental guidelines, a major Dutch carbon capture plant may be stopped. This could have a negative impact on construction projects in the country.

Rotterdam’s “Porthos” project, which would be Europe’s largest carbon storage-and-capture facility, is expected reduce the country’s annual CO2 emission by about 2%.

The court however ruled that nitrogen emissions must be included in the project’s environmental impact. This was due to a Dutch exemption for all building activities. European law was also considered a violation by the court.

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The court said that the decision on whether to allow the project would take longer. It was created by Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Air Liquide and Air Products (APD.N).

Many major construction projects across the country could be affected by the ruling of the court regarding nitrogen exemption.


Rob Jetten, climate minister said that it now appears that the ruling will delay projects required for the energy transition by about six months to two year. This is a bitter pill as many sustainable projects that are constructed actually reduce nitrogen emissions.

The Dutch builders’ association called the ruling “dramatic”. The ruling stated that every project not yet licensed would need to apply for an environmental permit. This could lead to massive delays, which could have serious implications for the Dutch economy, energy transition and house hunters.

This ruling is the culmination a long-running legal battle for nitrogen oxides emission reductions, which can be a threat to some types of animals and plants that eat them.


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Environmental groups brought the case to challenge the exemption via the Porthos project. They challenged its environmental merits and claimed that it was a subsidised method for companies to continue releasing greenhouse gases.

High nitrogen emissions have plagued the Netherlands for many years. High nitrogen emissions are due to high numbers of livestock, heavy fertilizer usage by farmers, traffic in densely populated areas, and construction.

The nitrogen exemption was created after the 2019 Council of State ruling that Dutch builders and farmers had broken European laws. This severely hampered construction.

The Dutch government hopes to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030. It has yet to determine how it will achieve its goal.

After six weeks of comment from environmental NGOs, the court will decide whether permits for the project are granted.

Last year, the Dutch government provided subsidies in excess of half a million euros to the project.

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