Set on a mission to become the world’s first carbon dioxide negative chemical cluster by 2050, the TopDutch region developed a wide range of sustainable solutions to push towards a green chemical industry. An important component of this ambition is incorporating fully biobased building blocks in the production of polymers.
Chemport Europe: the right chemistry
The ecosystem for green chemistry in the TopDutch region, Chemport Europe, has the ‘right chemistry’ for biobased development. It is set in the ideal location, because it has - besides nearby access to offshore wind - advanced agriculture. The countryside offers a variety of sustainable crops. We will let the facts speak for themselves: 28,000 hectares of sugar beet, 117,000 hectares of wheat, 301,000 hectares of green feed, 74,000 hectares of potatoes, 14,000 hectares of rapeseed, and 620,000 hectares of grass.
Why that is an asset? Well, the second generation biomass (woody crops, agricultural residues and byproducts, and non-food energy crops) are converted and used as building blocks for plastics. Additionally, energy and hydrogen feedstock are increasingly generated by offshore wind from the North Sea and used to produce green chemicals. Together, this means we can produce one of the (still) most inseparable products of our everyday lives fully green.
As well, logistics are of paramount importance for a biobased ecosystem. The TopDutch region has it all. Most importantly, we have two strategically located seaports: in Delfzijl and Eemshaven. These facilitate the import of additional raw materials. Furthermore, the region can be easily accessed; we have excellent connections by rail, road and air.
...in the end, there will be no alternatives for plastics. So, it is also a sustainable way to keep using them.
Next generation technologies
Chemport Europe is currently accelerating its green chemistry production by building two pilot plants. In these plants, new technologies are developed in order to produce fully biobased building blocks.
World wide frontrunner in renewable chemistry and leading technology development company Avantium builds a pilot biorefinery in the TopDutch region. In Delfzijl, one of Chemport Europe’s locations, Avantium’s newly developed DAWN technology will make optimum use of predominantly forestry and agricultural residue in order to produce glucose, lignin, and mixed sugars - building blocks for chemical products like mono-ethylene glycol - once construction of the plant is done.
Mono-ethylene glycol? We bet that does not ring a bell. Look at the label of a piece of clothing. You are likely to find polyester as one of the materials used. Actually, polyesters can be made through a fully green chemical process, by utilizing green chemicals like mono-ethylene glycol and green hydrogen. And guess what? Polyesters happen to be produced on a large scale in Emmen, the other Chemport Europe location.
Errit Bekkering, business developer at the regional development agency NOM, considers Avantiums pilot biorefinery an important step towards the fully green future of Chemport Europe. ,,It is the first step to move from fossil to renewable feedstock. Plus, part of the reason Avantium is building the plant in Delfzijl is the byproduct of the regional salt production: hydrochloric acid.’’ Bekkering is excited about the developments. ,,Of course, Avantium needs to see how the plant is working. But in the future, the company will build a large-scale, first of its kind biorefining industrial plant.’’
It might be a bit of a brain twist; trying to fully comprehend the process of turning biomass into green plastics. But the process is important, claims Bekkering. Why? ,,It holds the key for the future of plastics. You can make the same plastic, but now biobased, like PET. Or, you can make new materials. Plus, I believe in the end, there will be no alternatives for plastics. So, it is also a sustainable way to keep using them.’’
Carbon dioxide as feedstock
But there is more. Photanol, the next generation clean chemical production platform, is building the second pilot plant in Delfzijl. Completely different from Avantium, Photanol will turn carbon dioxide into valuable chemical compounds by using bacteria in its future industrial scale pilot plant. The chemicals can subsequently be used to make plastics with significantly reduced non-ecological footprint.
Groundbreaking technology, seemingly from the future, already at Chemport Europe. Photanol will further develop it at its pilot plant. Once the production process has proven itself - both technologically and economically viable - factories can be build anywhere.
The gap between industry and education is being closed’.
Chemistry between us
Development already takes place at Chemport Europe. Most important facilitator is the continuous collaboration between entrepreneurs, scientists, researchers, and regional and local government. Furthermore, the TopDutch region has new talent capital. Skills and knowledge are incessantly adapted to the industry’s increasingly fast pace. ,,The gap between industry and education is being closed’’, claims Bekkering. Both the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences do research on renewable feedstocks. Simultaneously, students are encouraged to work and study in an industrial environment, equipping themselves for multidisciplinary work later in life.
However, chemical industry is not a regional industry. ,,It is a global industry’’, as Bekkering explains. Collaboration should be stimulated not only at a national level, but on an international one as well. At Chemport Europe, we have the ideal ecosystem for innovative, green chemical business. Chemistry is in our DNA. Do you share our sustainable ambition? Then, there is chemistry between us.
At Chemport Europe, we have the ideal ecosystem for innovative, green chemical business. Chemistry is in our DNA. Do you share our sustainable ambition? Then, there is chemistry between us.