The Dutch carbon capture and storage (CCS) project Porthos has been cleared to go ahead, after the Netherlands’ Council of State ruled that its environmental permits were valid. But a drawn-out legal process means start-up will be delayed by around two years.

The consortium developing Porthos — the Port of Rotterdam and Dutch state-owned companies EBN and Gasunie — said last week that they would take a final investment decision and start construction as soon as the permits were secured.

The project is now expected to start operations in 2026. It will provide 2.5mn t/yr of CO2 storage capacity under the North Sea for the largest emitters in the Rotterdam area. Shell, ExxonMobil and industrial gas firms Air Liquide and Air Products all signed contracts to use the infrastructure last year. Air Liquide will use the site to store carbon captured at its planned low-carbon hydrogen plant at Rozenburg.

Porthos had initially been planned to start in 2024, but it was delayed by legal challenges from environmental campaign group Mobilisation for the Environment. The project became mired in an ongoing “nitrogen crisis” in the Netherlands, where EU controls on nature-harming nitrogen emissions are frustrating planning applications for large-scale construction projects.

The nitrogen crisis and the recent collapse of the Dutch government have threatened to slow down the Netherlands’ progress on renewable and CCS-enabled hydrogen.

Today’s ruling will spare the Netherlands from a €175.6mn payout to the Porthos consortium. The government last year agreed to underwrite the developers’ outlay on materials and contractors in order to keep the CCS project moving forward during the court case, as it was seen to be of national importance.