June 2023 saw the launch of the second Brightsite Transition Outlook (BTO). This BTO focuses on the transition to a circular chemical industry, specifically the transition of raw materials and the associated challenges. The Brightsite Advisory Board has reviewed the preview. Arnold Stokking, Managing Director of Brightsite, asks Emmo Meijer, outgoing Chairman of the Brightsite Advisory Board, and his successor Marcel Wubbolts for their thoughts on the content and the expected impact.
In recent months, under the leadership of Céline Fellay, Program Manager for Transition Scenarios & System Integration, and Paul Brandts, Intelligence Officer of Brightsite, in collaboration with the program managers, significant effort has been put into this second BTO. Stokking asks, “As members of the Advisory Board and personally, how do you view the outcome?”
Emmo Meijer: “I find it good and refreshing that the BTO takes a step towards an all-encompassing view of the transition in the chemical industry. It is a sensitive point that, so far, a holistic view has been lacking. Of course, it is challenging, but until now, everyone has been talking about their own piece of the puzzle and their flagship project. Does that bring us closer to our goal of transforming into a sustainable, circular chemistry? No! The BTO provides the necessary overview and presents a relevant future vision that matters.”
Marcel Wubbolts: “I, like the rest of the Advisory Board, am enthusiastic about the BTO. The infographic is powerful and tells the holistic story. The energy transition has received societal attention, but the same cannot be said for the transition of raw materials, despite the interconnection between these two transitions. Therefore, it is important that this BTO focuses on the latter.
With the help of the CIMS (Chemelot Integral Model System) model, we can examine how the chemistry sector can shape up, considering a wide range of factors.
Now, we need to engage in dialogue with all stakeholders involved – industry, citizens, governments, and NGOs – based on factual information such as the findings of CIMS.”
About Brightsite Transition Outlook 2023
Brightsite Transition Outlook (BTO) 2023 has been developed for companies, knowledge institutions, policymakers, and supporting organizations involved in shaping the transition of raw materials in the chemical industry. It provides insights into potential solutions and the required amounts of renewable resources and energy, using a fictional chemical complex called CHEM-NL, representing the total ethylene and ammonia production in the Netherlands. Concrete scenarios for CHEM-NL have been formulated using the CIMS model, taking into account the expected limited availability of raw materials.
We know what the options are; let’s get to work!
“The BTO presents a clear comparison of different options regarding alternative raw materials and outlines timelines for the near future, the future beyond that, and the distant future. Recycling of plastics stands out as the primary solution. Plastic waste closely resembles fossil resources and can be efficiently processed in existing facilities. Additionally, biomaterials will become an increasingly important component due to the limited availability of waste for the production of new plastics. Finally, the direct utilization of CO2 is an option for the long term, although it remains a vision for the future,” emphasizes Wubbolts.
Meijer anticipates that resources like CO2 will only represent a small aspect: “If we want to move away from fossil fuels by 2050, we need to start now and consider all factors and impactful solution routes side by side, in which the BTO greatly assists. In addition, to meet the demand for sustainable energy, electrification will play a significant role, and plasma technology also presents opportunities.”
Geographical Context and Towards a New Worldview
Stokking: “The BTO provides a clear perspective on what is needed for the transition and which technological options can contribute to it. What should play a role in making choices?”
Emmo Meijer: “Can we use these technologies within the current production configurations of the industry? That’s challenging, and as the Netherlands and Europe, we need to approach it from a geographical context. Is it wise to keep certain aspects here instead of relocating them to other places with better access to sustainable energy and resources? These choices are complex and face resistance. We may be talking about a completely new setup of the chemical industry and our society. That requires a new way of thinking, and the Brightsite Transition Outlook provides a starting point for that.
Emmo Meijer, outgoing Chairman of the Brightsite Advisory Board
“We are on the verge of a sustainable and viable reconfiguration of society. Are we, as citizens, government, and industry, ready for it?”
Marcel Wubbolts: “What does our new worldview look like? That’s something to be discussed as a society, and the chemical industry is part of it. Future legislation, which will promote carbon-neutral processes, will influence that. As Europe, we want to maintain a competitive chemical industry, and it’s also essential to consider what’s happening in the US and China. On a societal level, it requires a significant level of awareness because what you consume, use, and how you move, etc., impacts the world. Are we capable of maintaining our prosperity if we stop using fossil resources? As a society, we will need to make choices based on what the Earth can sustain.”
Marcel Wubbolts, incoming Chairman of the Brightsite Advisory Board
“What does our new worldview look like? That is something to be discussed together with society, and the chemical industry is part of it.”
Brightsite Advisory Board
Brightsite has an Advisory Board consisting of representatives from key external stakeholders within the chemical industry. The Advisory Board includes Emmo Meijer (former figurehead of the Topsector Chemistry), Marcel Wubbolts (Vivici), Kim Meulenbroeks (Renewi), Eric Appelman (Brightlands Chemelot Campus), Frank Kuijpers (SABIC), Richard van de Sanden (Differ, TU/e), and Pol Deturck (Beaulieu International Group).
Since June 2023, Marcel Wubbolts has taken over from Emmo Meijer as the chairman of the Advisory Board. “I have been the chairman with great pleasure. Brightsite is doing highly relevant work and takes a comprehensive view. There are few places where such a broad scope is discussed in a substantive manner. It would be beneficial to have a similar Advisory Board at the national level,” Meijer believes.
“I am proud and honored to succeed Emmo. The transition to a sustainable chemical industry is something I have been involved with for 27 years. When I was asked to join the Advisory Board, I wholeheartedly accepted. The transition to a fossil-free chemical industry is crucial and close to my heart. Brightlands and Brightsite have enormous potential to make a difference, and I am eager to contribute,” Wubbolts adds.