Letter of intent circular water at Chemelot: Limburg is joining forces for a sound Chemelot water strategy

Press Release

In order to ensure that Chemelot is also able to become the safest and most sustainable site in Europe with regard to its water management, Brightsite is set to launch its ‘Circular Water for Chemelot’ program on 1 March 2021. A consortium consisting of Waterschapsbedrijf Limburg (WBL), Waterleiding Maatschappij Limburg (WML), Utility Support Group (USG) and Sitech Services, has agreed to support this program and recently signed a letter of intent for that purpose.

When it comes to sustainability, the foremost objectives on the Chemelot site don’t only involve reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also reducing emissions of waste substances into water and reducing the overall water consumption on the site. Water is actually a fundamental necessity in industrial processes and on the Chemelot site, it is needed for cooling, for heating (steam), as process water and for extinguishing water.

As a result of climate change on the one hand and due to socio-economic developments on the other, the availability of a sufficient quantity of (clean) water in all parts of the Netherlands in the future cannot be taken for granted. Chemelot is aware that, due to the size of the site and the fact that water is used in a great many processes, it has a substantial influence on the surface water system in the province of Limburg. Chemelot extracts water from the Juliana Canal, one third of which is then lost while being used, primarily as a result of evaporation. The rest is purified in the Integrated Wastewater Purification Plant (IAZI) before being discharged into the river Meuse via a tributary of the Ur stream.

Lianne van Oord, Program Manager Process Innovation at Brightsite:

Our aim is to make sure that the water system on the Chemelot site is ready for the future by extracting substances from the water more effectively and by re-using water wherever we can as a means of reducing our water consumption. In order to achieve this, we have launched the ‘Circular Water for Chemelot’ program.

Circular water for Chemelot

Brightsite is about to implement the ‘Circular Water for Chemelot’ program. Sitech, USG, WBL and WML are ready to support this and to contribute both their expertise and their network, and the expectation is that other parties, such as knowledge providers, technology developers and of course the factories on site, will join the program at a later stage. After all, the transition to a climate neutral Chemelot by 2050 will also have an effect on the water consumption of and the wastewater generated by the production plants. Linking the two ends of the water chain together is something that requires an integrated approach and that is interlinked with the other (sustainability) developments on the Chemelot site and in the surrounding area. The ultimate goal is ‘zero discharge’, otherwise known as circular water. This can’t be achieved solely through process optimization, which is why new technologies will be needed and it will be a case of taking a fresh look at the on-site water system as a whole. Circular water is all about closing circles – from small circles around a plant to large circles spanning the entire site. It also encompasses water consumption, as well as the substances found in wastewater.


The consortium partners, WBL, WML, USG and Sitech, all play an important role with regard to the provision and management of water on the site itself or within the province of Limburg as a whole and all of them are stakeholders in this important program. USG and Sitech are responsible for water management on the Chemelot site. Sitech manages the IAZI and holds the Water Act permit for the site, while the water intake, transportation of water, production of demineralized water and steam management on the Chemelot site are the responsibility of USG. WBL and WML are involved in the capacity of knowledge partners within the Limburg water chain. WML extracts, purifies and distributes the drinking water in the province of Limburg and has an interest in clean sources from which to provide drinking water, which include the Meuse. WBL is involved in the transportation and purification of (municipal) wastewater and with sludge processing.

The consortium will form the starting point and will lead to the creation of an overarching partnership that will put issues on the agenda, instigate broader collaboration, mobilize stakeholders and generate additional funding. Collaboration is a conscious choice, because it means that the individual parties will have access to knowledge and networks that will benefit the ‘Circular Water for Chemelot’ program.

Joyce Nelissen, Director and Board Member of WML: “The river Meuse is an important source when it comes to producing drinking water for the province of Limburg. Throughout the Netherlands as a whole, no fewer than four million people drink tap water that has been prepared using water from the Meuse. WML and the drinking water companies downstream from Limburg stand to benefit the most if the Meuse is a clean as possible. We’re also pleased to be in a position to contribute our knowledge and experience. The challenges that stand before us as a result of climate change can only be solved if we face up to them together. That is why we place such high importance on collaborating with our partners in the water chain.”

Guus Pelzer, Managing Director of Waterschapsbedrijf Limburg: “Within this sustainable ‘water’ network, we are taking a step towards a more climate-independent operating model. The introduction of sustainable, modular treatment plants and circular water will boost the economic driving force behind the companies on the Chemelot site. All in all, this will be a powerful example from Limburg that can potentially be rolled out on an international level.”

Wouter Vermijs, Managing Director of USG: “By pooling the knowledge of all of the partners involved, this consortium will ensure that sustainable water management on the Chemelot site becomes a reality, while making a substantial contribution towards the development of Chemelot into the most sustainable chemical site in Europe. USG is pleased to have the opportunity to make its contribution to this initiative.

Marc Dassen, CEO of Sitech Services: “By entering into this collaboration, we are increasing awareness of the fact that the water system on the Chemelot site is linked to the water system in the province of Limburg as a whole and that we believe that working together in this way will provide added value for all concerned. We definitely need each other’s expertise if we are to achieve sustainable solutions in the field of water management.”

About Brightsite

Brightsite is a partnership between Sitech Services, TNO, Maastricht University and Brightlands Chemelot Campus, and focuses on making the chemical industry more sustainable, at both the Chemelot site and other locations. The climate goals pose hugely significant challenges for the chemical industry, but they also provide opportunities. Sound transition management will result in economic growth and will draw in talent and business. As the development and application of new technology involves much more than just the technical aspects, the work also includes safety aspects, social acceptance, legal and economic feasibility and education.