W2C Rotterdam

Setting a new global standard in biofuels, chemicals and waste management

Setting a new global standard in biofuels, chemicals and waste management

Setting a new global standard in biofuels, chemicals and waste managementSetting a new global standard in biofuels, chemicals and waste management


Not waste but feedstock: first steps towards circular chemical industry in Rotterdam

This future Waste to Chemicals plant will convert non-recyclable waste into chemicals and biofuels and in doing so provide a sustainable alternative to waste incineration. A unique project on which private and market players collaborate. Participants in the packed seminar on 6 December 2018 engaged in talks about governance, value creation in the waste industry, and technical challenges. ‘We no longer talk in terms of waste, but in terms of feedstock.’

The partners in the Waste to Chemicals (W2C) consortium are Air Liquide, Nouryon, Enerkem and Port of Rotterdam Authority. Together they are working on the development of the advanced plant that is coming to Rotterdam. During the seminar, the partners will present themselves and go into greater detail about their participation. ‘This meeting is all about sharing knowledge and experience, and exchanging ideas,’ says Director of RD&I and Technology at Nouryon Marco Waas in his opening statement. ‘A full house: we have brought together a fair number of representatives of large businesses, SMEs, knowledge institutes and the government.’

Anton de Vries, Director of consortium partner Enerkem: ‘Our plant in the Canadian city of Edmonton is a unique collaboration between a major city and an innovative producer of biofuels made from waste. Through a thermochemical process, the plant converts non-recyclable household waste into clean biofuels and green chemicals, such as ethanol and methanol. This considerably reduces the volume of the city’s landfill site. The aim is to convert 100,000 tonnes of urban waste into 38 million litres of biofuel each year. 

The fact that the first factory of its kind is in Edmonton is because the now former mayor wanted to do something against the ever-growing refuse landfill site. He campaigned for the construction of the plant. The pilot has now been under development for 1.5 years and worldwide there is a great deal of interest in the plant and this approach. Since China stopped importing and processing plastic waste, large companies have been feeling a sense of responsibility for doing something themselves about their waste. Enerkem is working with various international partnerships, such as governments and market leaders in waste management and chemicals. We offer the technology, and because we operate through the modular concept, we are also able to deliver the equipment/facilities and assemble them on site. And we will be doing this in Rotterdam too.’

Yvonne van der Laan, Director of Port of Rotterdam Authority Process Industry and Bulk Goods: ‘The Port of Rotterdam Authority is committed to achieving the reductions in CO2emissions. The key word here is collaboration and for this we mainly need public partners.
The new plant is in line with the recommendations from research carried out by the Wuppertal Institute in 2018 into the way Rotterdam industry can drastically reduce its CO2emissions. The Waste to Chemicals plant of this type and scale is a world first. It demonstrates how we can introduce an innovative circular process with existing players in the industry cluster.’

Jaap Oldenziel is Public Affairs Manager at Air Liquide. Air Liquide is a supplier of industrial gas to a range of sectors, including the chemical and medical fields, and electronics. The company is a global market leader and supplies its products in more than 75 countries.
‘Air Liquide has the densest pipeline network in the Benelux with which we serve major consumers of industrial gases. In fact, the networks in Belgium and the Netherlands comprise 2,225 kilometres of pipelines. As a Waste to Chemicals consortium partner, we can see a role for Air Liquide as a supplier of utilities and gases, possibly technology, as well as being an operator.’

Rinke Zonneveld, Director at InnovationQuarter, the regional development company for South Holland: ‘The W2C project is a model project between private and market players in which Port of Rotterdam Authority is sticking its neck out. However, one plant doesn’t make a summer; if we want to live up to the climate commitments, we will need dozens of projects like it. The WC2 project fits in well with the Roadmap Next Economy for shaping the new economy of the South Holland region.’

lice Krekt, Programme Director at Deltalinqs, which represents the joint interests of logistics, port and industrial companies in Rotterdam: ‘This is a fantastic model project, and we are going to need more of them as part of the transition. Although it is looking positive at the moment, the project organisation will have to overcome a lot of barriers. It is important that such initiatives are facilitated as much as possible within the companies and by the government: Companies also need to seek coalitions outside their core business because that is precisely where innovations will be born. The government must pursue a stable and incentivising policy. Innovation also demands flexibility. Incentive schemes and licence procedures must allow scope for fresh insights. Companies and governments are working hard towards this, for example in the Deltalinqs Climate Program.’

Elisabeth van Opstall, Director at SmartPort, the port of Rotterdam’s knowledge institute: ‘Both companies and governments that are working on innovative projects can learn from the Waste to Chemicals licencing process, and thereby speed up the energy transition. SmartPort links these players to one another.’ 

Three W2C workshops
Following the general presentations, the participants split up into three workshops. After three quarters of an hour, it is time for the findings of the workshops to be reported back to the room. 

Workshop 1: ‘Value creation in the waste cluster’
Stijn Effting, Business Manager at Port of Rotterdam Authority Chemical & Bio Based Industry:
‘At the start of the workshop I was immediately given a clip round the ear because we are of course no longer talking in terms of waste, but in terms of feedstock! Ideas that were put forward: location markers on plastic so it is easier to recognise and recycle; Urban mining: dig out old landfill sites to see which feedstock can still be used; drones and hyperloops are mentioned as ways of minimising the transport of waste.’

Workshop 2: ‘Governance of the energy transition’
The Governance workshop is about licences and how we deal with them. At the request of DCMR, Port of Rotterdam Authority, Deltalinqs and SmartPort, Erasmus University and TNO are researching how the governance model can be adapted to speed up the energy transition. One of the questions is whether and how it might be possible to be flexible in dealing with licences. Workshop leaders Martin de Bree (Researcher at Rotterdam School of Management) and Johan van Middelaar (TNO): ‘What do we need to get started with Waste to Chemicals? The licences need to allow scope for experimentation! Upsizing and downsizing licences are required; there needs to be scope for flexibility; there is currently a lot of vertical coordination around licences, this needs to be more horizontal!’

Workshop 3: ‘Technical challenges’
‘In this workshop we looked at the issues very generically and in a very detailed way,’ says Jaap Oldenziel, Public Affairs Manager at Air Liquide. A few outcomes:
‘The feedstock flows could be shorter; front-end separation; tracers on plastic; automation is problematic, still too much of a manual process; build small and modular; process feedstock that is not bio-based products that have been in use for 20 or 30 years; work more with growers!’

Chair of the day Marco Waas rounds off the Waste to Chemicals seminar:
‘Over the past 20 to 25 years, the chemical industry has been characterised by scaling up and improving efficiency. What we need to learn more about now is how to innovate!’

The W2C project was partly financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Opportunities for West II programme focuses on providing additional incentives to businesses. Other priorities include an improved business climate, innovation by SMEs and a low-carbon economy.

The project is also financed by the European Union: the European Regional Development Fund