Models as a compass to a climate neutral, circular industry


This summer, we could literally feel climate change happening around us. We also had to face up to the disadvantages of our dependence on fossil energy sources, particularly gas. All of this means that the energy transition is more urgent than ever. Solar and wind energy are the workhorses of this transition, and they will soon become the backbone of the energy system. Soon, we will stop producing electricity from fossil fuels and will instead use electricity to produce green hydrogen. At the same time, new sources of carbon such as recyclate, waste and bio-based raw materials will need to replace oil and gas as feedstocks. Our ultimate destination is clear: a climate-neutral, circular industry. The route we should take to get there, however, is less clear. For years now, models have served as a compass to guide us on this journey.

Where should we begin when modelling, given that the energy transition is changing everything? Within their own cluster, Brightsite and Chemelot are launching the “Chemelot Integrated Model System” (CIMS) optimisation model. The strength of this approach is that it enables the chemical site to coherently describe Chemelot’s changing environment in terms of energy and raw materials. This newsletter clearly shows that the development of the CIMS model is a good example of open innovation. Evidence of this can be seen in the collaboration with research agency Kalavasta and the interactions between Brightsite knowledge partner TNO, Sitech and the companies at Chemelot. My group at Utrecht University is also involved in this via TNO. We are conducting a number of PhD projects (including that of doctoral candidate Julia Tiggeloven) in an attempt to improve the quality of modelling and the consistency between process, cluster and system levels. This is crucial, because the transition is systemic in nature; all of the changes are linked. It is only by fostering effective cooperation between industry and knowledge partners that we will be able to bring modelling to a level of quality that is of use to decision-makers in industry and government. This is what motivates us all, because we are playing our part in speeding up the transition.

Prof. Gert Jan Kramer
Professor of sustainable energy supply, Utrecht University, and chair of the Sustainable Industry Lab