At Chemelot, the pursuit of sustainability and circularity is not just an abstract ideal but a tangible goal. The site aims to become a fully circular chemical complex by 2050. Céline Fellay, who is seconded full-time to Brightsite from partner Sitech Services, is at the forefront of this transformation. In this interview, Céline discusses her involvement in the Brightsite Transition Outlook (BTO), which serves as an essential roadmap to achieve Chemelot's ambitious goals.
Charting the future
At Brightsite, Céline leads program line 5, "Transition Scenarios and System Integration." Together with the CIMS modeling team, she played a crucial role in the research work for BTO 2023, particularly in the area of modeling. "We started preparing the scenarios and cases at the end of last year and initiated the modelling work," she says. "The initial results came in earlier this year. Since February, our focus has been on disseminating the research findings and determining how to effectively communicate our message. We developed cases and examples to illustrate the current situation and create awareness."
Efficient allocation and approach to resources
Céline believes that the work of Brightsite is of great significance, and the BTO provides a unique opportunity to convey a critical message. "The transition of raw materials is a topic that concerns everyone. While there is much attention on the energy transition, people often overlook the importance of raw materials for the chemical industry. Plastics, for example, often receive negative attention, but they significantly contribute to our quality of life. With the BTO, we aim to demonstrate that we can produce these materials sustainably. However, if all resources were to be allocated to the energy sector, there would be a scarcity of resources for the chemical industry. Therefore, I feel the urgency to advocate for a systemic approach and the need for guidelines and incentives at a higher level in the Netherlands or Europe. We can allocate resources better and more efficiently and consider the overall impact."
“It is crucial to adopt a systemic approach and view the energy and chemical transition as one interconnected system.”
Céline emphasizes that while BTO 2023 primarily focuses on the Netherlands, she strongly believes that the insights presented also have global implications. "The impact of Brightsite alone may be limited, but our goal is to create awareness and encourage others to share our vision. Our analysis is valid for numerous sectors and countries, particularly in Europe, where energy efficiency is crucial. By sharing insights and collaborating, we can have a much greater impact."
“That's why we engage in discussions with other industry stakeholders in different regions of the Netherlands," she adds. "We aim to facilitate dialogue to gather input and gain insights into the challenges faced by various sectors. This exchange of knowledge enables us to acquire insights and promote awareness.”
Policy support for circular chemistry
According to Céline, one of the key conclusions of the BTO is that we need to focus on carbon as an essential component in the transition of raw materials for the chemical industry. "Carbon is irreplaceable for many products essential to our lives," she states. "To move away from fossil fuels, we need to consider carbon from alternative sources, which include three options: waste, biomass, or air (CO2). The preferred option is the use of waste because it allows us to keep carbon in the loop, reducing the demand for new raw materials. Additionally, we need supportive policies to make circularity feasible. Biomass can also be a viable feedstock if it is sustainable, providing additional options such as biopolymers-on-demand for key applications. However, using CO2 from the air is very energy-intensive and requires a significant amount of green electricity. BTO 2023 anticipates scarcity, as current resources still produce insufficient amounts compared to what is needed. Therefore, the report emphasizes the importance of resource development and conscious allocation of alternative resources. By providing guidance during this transition, we can ensure the efficient use of resources when better alternatives are not available."
“By raising awareness about the consequences of different choices, we can bring about real change.”
A holistic perspective
"Humanity is already behind schedule in achieving sustainability goals," points out Céline. "It is crucial to adopt a systemic approach and view the energy transition and chemical transition as one interconnected system. We need to operate from a holistic, integrated perspective that transcends individual industries and borders. By working together on a global scale, we can effectively address the challenges and ensure a sustainable future."
Making informed choices
Céline emphasizes the importance of the modeling work conducted as part of BTO 2023. She explains, "The CIMS model helps us assess the consequences of different choices. It is not a predictive model; it serves to show the impact of legislation, constraints, and resource availability on transition pathways. We examined the chemical industry in the Netherlands to demonstrate the implications of specific assumptions. I believe that such a model can help us make informed choices and optimize our decision-making processes. Although our model focuses on the chemical industry, it also considers the energy demand. It includes existing processes, energy requirements, and emissions, as well as alternative processes to achieve zero emissions by 2050. It provides the most economical and sustainable pathways, taking into account technologies and resources. By raising awareness about the consequences of different choices, we can drive meaningful change."
Want to learn more about Brightsite and the Brightsite Transition Outlook?
Sitech is a proud partner of Brightsite, a unique initiative to achieve sustainability in the process industry. Brightsite promotes the development and commercial application of technologies that enable the chemical industry to achieve its sustainability, safety, and human capital goals in line with the climate challenge and energy transition.
The second edition of the Brightsite Transition Outlook (BTO) reveals that the transition to a circular industry will be accompanied by scarcity: scarcity of green energy, green raw materials, and industrial water. While the focus has predominantly been on the energy transition, the BTO now centers on the raw materials transition.