October 12, 2023

40 years AGT: a memorable past and a bright future

Today, Advario Gas Terminal (AGT) in Antwerp celebrates forty years in operation. A pioneer on the left bank of the river Scheldt, deeply integrated into the petrochemical heart of Europe, AGT plays a key role in Advario’s ambitious strategy. Celebrating with staff, customers, partners and other stakeholders, the terminal looks back on a memorable past, and forward to a bright future.

In the summer of 1983, Advario Gas Terminal (AGT) introduced itself via postcard to potential customers. The front of the card features an aerial view of a still very empty left bank of the Scheldt, with the gas terminal in the center. The characteristic spherical gas tanks are ready to be put into use, and the two large cylindrical refrigerated storage tanks are under construction.

A postcard from 1983 in which AGT announced itself to potential customers.

On the back of the card is written: “In approximately two months the terminal will be ready to provide a full range of services to its customers. The ability to handle up to 75,000 m3 vessels, store pressurized products and discharge into other vessels will be immediately available. In September 1984 100,000 m3 of fully refrigerated storage will also be available.”

The early days
A pioneer on the left bank of the Scheldt

AGT in 1983

In 1983 the very first tanker – the Hoegh Sword – docks, and the first cargo of LPG was transported safely and efficiently from tanker to storage. And many thousands of cargoes would follow.

Companies in storage and logistics often position themselves modestly. We are service providers, focused on optimally serving our customers, and ensuring safe import and export of potentially dangerous but necessary raw materials. However, it can be stated that AGT is a pioneer, one of the first large companies to establish itself on the left bank of the Scheldt.

And because AGT settled there, forming an important link in the petrochemical logistics chain, it also became more interesting for customers and partners to move towards the vast expanse of the left bank.

“When we started, there was nothing,” says Walter Goetschalckx, who started as an operator at AGT in 1983, and held various roles in the company up until his retirement in 2012. We interviewed him during a celebration for staff, retirees and their families, last Sunday. “Just sand, an occasional dust storm, and AGT.” It didn’t bother Walter, or the other colleagues. On the contrary. Walter: “I was immediately drawn to the terminal, wanted to work there from the moment I heard of it. I had worked at sea for years, before starting in the petrochemical sector in the Antwerp harbor. For me, AGT combined the best of both worlds.”

Reminiscing on AGT’s start, Walter says: “We were pioneering then, the whole area was under development. Around us, roads and railways were under construction. And we ourselves were still finishing our refrigerated tanks, and getting ready for the construction of pipelines.” He laughs. “Those first two tanks seemed so big, they were visible landmarks in Kallo for decades. I always look in their direction when I drive on the highway. But now they are dwarfed by AGT’s new tanks.” And that’s a good thing, he stresses. Walter: “Growth and development are part of AGT’s fabric. From expansions to the introduction of automation, we always had something going on.”

Set for growth
Becoming part of the Advario family

Since 1983, the terminal has grown significantly. The largest expansions took place after the company was taken over by Advario’s predecessor, Oiltanking, in 2016. Hundreds of millions have been invested in the largest butane (2020) and propane (2022) tanks in Europe, leading to a tripling of the storage capacity (from 113,200 m³ in 1984 to more than 435,000 m³ now).

The terminal now spans 26 hectares and has significantly expanded its logistical network over the years. AGT is deeply integrated into the Port of Antwerp through direct pipelines between its customers and terminal. The terminal also has access to the European pipeline network.

Construction of the butane tank (2018)

A bright future
Focus on New Energies

“But today we are not only celebrating the past of our terminal,” says Philippe Geeraerts, terminal manager AGT. “We are also celebrating what lies ahead for AGT.” And that future looks bright, partly due to the significantly increased capacity in recent years. Philippe: “Space is a precious commodity, especially in the constantly growing and developing Port of Antwerp. But we still have room to grow.”

“Space is a precious commodity, especially in the constantly growing and developing Port of Antwerp. But we still have room to grow.” – Philippe Geeraerts, terminal manager AGT

This growth will focus on the storage of new energies, on providing the storage solutions our partners need to progress through the energy transition. The Antwerp terminal is investing in the storage of ammonia, an effective hydrogen carrier, which enables the safe transport of hydrogen from producing countries to countries with demand for new energy.

Philippe: “Together with our sister terminal Advario Stolthaven Antwerp (ASA), we entered into a partnership with the Belgian pipeline network operator Fluxys in August 2022, to explore the possibility of building an import terminal for the storage of green ammonia.” Green ammonia is ammonia produced without emitting carbon dioxide.

The partnership between Fluxys and the Belgian Advario terminals (read more here) combines the strength, knowledge, and experience of the various parties and fits seamlessly with the ambition to make the Port of Antwerp-Bruges a green energy hub. It also strengthens AGT’s position and relevance, now and in the future.

In short: AGT is getting ready for the next forty years!

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