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Room for sustainable innovation

The chemical industry is by far the most important export sector in the existing port. The 44 (petro)chemical companies in the port area generate 20% of the added value of the total Dutch chemical industry. In 2007, this represented an export value of EUR 70 billion. With the construction of Maasvlakte 2, the Rotterdam chemical sector is likely to maintain its strong export role.

300 ha for the chemical sector

Ultimately, in around 2035, some 300 ha on Maasvlakte 2 will be occupied by companies involved in chemical-related activities. Just like in the rest of Maasvlakte 2, these sites will have to satisfy strict sustainability requirements. The preparations for marketing the chemical sites start by exploring the opportunities for sustainable innovation in the chemical sector.

The chemical industry is developing at a relentless pace. Examples like biodiesel on the basis of algae or ethanol as a fuel made from organic waste are no longer the stuff of daydreams. The chemical industry that will be accommodated on Maasvlakte 2 will be partly based on this kind of innovative technology.

Sustainable innovation

One such innovation is the use of bacteria that convert organic residual waste into sugar. For example, researchers are focusing on special bacteria found in elephant dung. It turns out these bacteria can convert the tough grass eaten by elephants into sugar. Subsequently turning this sugar into fuel is a relatively small step.  Chemical companies are busy cultivating these bacteria on a large scale. In the future, garden waste, cuttings and other organic residual waste that is now often burnt in incineration plants can be sustainably processed. The sugars that are released from the vegetable waste will be converted into alcohol and subsequently into biofuel. The production of the next generation of sustainable fuels could very well be accommodated on Maasvlakte 2.

Another expectation is that the industry in Rotterdam will increasingly process biofuels that are produced by algae, for example. The algae farms themselves will probably not be located on Maasvlakte 2. It is likely, however, that their products will be processed by chemical companies here. The same will also apply, for example, to the production of high-grade chemical products from vegetable residual flows that are currently still offered to the animal feed industry. The Port Authority assumes that the current chemical industry is preparing for a watershed change in terms of sustainability. For Maasvlakte 2, this will probably result in a cluster of companies that all work with green products or that make use of each other's residual products. This means new cargo flows and demand for storage space. Maasvlakte 2 is eminently suited for accommodating and facilitating such activities.

Although the developments are taking place at a fast pace, this transformation will not be realised within a matter of five years. In the long term, however, an integrated cluster of modern companies will develop here. This cluster, which is based on the new generation of biofuels, will be integrated via pipelines with the more classic chemical companies. Maasvlakte 2 has high ambitions. This means taking action at the right moment. The chemical industry will make its own decisions, but Maasvlakte 2 will offer the preconditions.

Energy for the future

There is a growing demand for electricity. This demand is not only determined by increasing prosperity, but is also expected to rise as a result of the growing popularity of electric cars. In its plans for the future (SEV III), the previous Dutch Cabinet pointed to Maasvlakte 2 as an optimum location for new power stations. The Port Authority is also very ambitious in this area and aims to exclusively fulfil this role with hydrogen power plants. The main advantage of such power stations is that CO2 is captured and stored. Furthermore, the produced syngas and hydrogen gas can serve as clean raw material for both power stations and modern chemical plants in the future 'green cluster'. This decision has a strategic background. The base material for syngas is coal, the reserves of which will last another two centuries. However, in sixty years time, oil reserves will be all but exhausted. Another major advantage is that coal can be mined all over the world. Dependency on oil and gas makes an economy vulnerable, since they can only be found in a limited number of countries.

How does a hydrogen power plant work?

A hydrogen power plant uses a gasification installation to convert fuels like coal or biomass into hydrogen and CO2. Eighty to ninety percent of the CO2 is removed from the process for storage. The clean hydrogen serves as fuel for power stations.

CO2 collection

Burning coal releases the greenhouse gas CO2. This gas is one of the factors contributing to global warming. For this reason, Rotterdam envisions a pivotal role for itself in the North-west European network of pipelines when it comes to transporting CO2 to empty oil and gas fields in the North Sea. Maasvlakte 2 can provide CO2 terminals for ships that are delivering CO2. The two new power stations on the existing Maasvlakte will be conducting a trial with the collection and storage of CO2 in the North Sea. If this trial is successful, Rotterdam can take the next step and develop into an important hub for the transport and transfer of CO2. Before this can happen, the price level will have to change, however. At the moment, it is still cheaper to trade emission rights. As a result, the capture and storage of CO2 is not seriously encouraged yet. The Port Authority expects positive developments in this area. In the near future, more than ten large-scale CO2 capture and storage projects will be set up in Europe. The trial in Rotterdam is one of these projects. In addition, around the world, there are numerous experiments with hydrogen power plants with CO2 capture installations. We do not yet know when exactly these hydrogen power plants with CO2 capture facilities will be built in Rotterdam. What is clear, however, is that with Maasvlakte 2, the Rotterdam port is ready to handle this development.

Tank storage

Between 2015 and 2035, the Port Authority intends to use 100 ha on Maasvlakte 2 for green chemical industry. It will call on interested companies to submit proposals in the course of 2011. In the period until 2035, another 100 ha will be filled by clean power plants with CO2 capture installations. In addition, there is a growing demand for space for tank storage. Companies wish to locate in the Rotterdam logistics hub, in order to build up a position in Europe. At the moment, there is still room for them in the existing port area, but in the future, the port will also need space on Maasvlakte 2.

Wind energy

Besides the new industrial sites, Maasvlakte 2 also features a seawall that is over ten km long. This offers room for wind energy. In 2009, the Port Authority signed a covenant containing agreements with the Dutch government and environmental organisations. In the coming years, Maasvlakte 2 will be adding another 150 megawatts to the existing capacity of 150 megawatts already found in the port. Combined, this will be enough electricity to supply 180,000 households.