Sustainable chemistry: dream or reality?

In order to bring a stop to global warming, greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced. For the Netherlands, for example, this means a 95% reduction in CO₂ emissions by 2050. The chemical industry needs to undergo a drastic transformation in order to make this possible. Brightsite supports this by enabling technical innovations in the transition of energy and raw materials, digitalization and networks in regional, national and international contexts.

Contributing to a sustainable future
If the process industry wants to meet the future climate objectives, it isn’t enough to just transition to other energy sources – the business processes must be made fully ‘green’. In the chemical sector, fossil fuels and energy sources are still frequently used, with the associated emissions. Brightsite will make an important contribution to the transition of the chemical process industry to other energy sources, with the aim of making this sector climate-neutral. The center will be located on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus. As part of the ecosystem on the campus, it forms a unique knowledge base for scaling up ideas from laboratories and, after implementation in the production phase, for developing these further. Lia Voermans, trailblazer from the Brightlands Chemelot Campus explains: "A large amount of research has already been carried out on a global scale, but this has often not yet led to useful solutions. There is a huge difference between a good idea that works on a small scale and applying that idea on a commercial scale within the industry sector.

“Surprisingly little work has been carried out on the major sources of CO₂, where extra efforts are needed. Chemelot is the best place for this to be turned into a reality.”
Lia Voermans, trailblazer Brightlands Chemelot Campus

Making a difference together
New knowledge areas will need to be developed for this transition, and Maastricht University is in an excellent position to do so. Bakir Bulic, trailblazer from Maastricht University explains: "This collaboration not only produces new research results, but these results can also be used immediately in society. Sustainability is high on both our agenda and on the social agenda. The Province of Limburg recognizes the importance of this. We can really make a difference with its support."

TNO has additional knowledge of and expertise in various sustainable processes that could be considered. Dick Koster, trailblazer from TNO explains: "It is a unique opportunity to develop and demonstrate available knowledge and new technology for 'Climate Proof Chemistry' on an industrially relevant scale and to demonstrate this to international market parties. This is a huge task and requires a great deal of knowledge of sustainable processes, which is accumulated within this center.

Sitech Services is the important link here. René Slaghek, trailblazer from Sitech Services explains: "We support a range of different chemical companies on this site, including by implementing ideas for improvement to get the most out of the factories. We test new sustainable solutions, such as hydrogen production from alternative raw materials and the electric generation of high temperatures. But we also test plastic circularity – the ability to reuse plastic for as long as possible. We specialize in scaling this up to concrete applications in the factories."

“We can use our contacts with the chemical companies on this site to create a field lab situation for scaling up promising technologies.”
René Slaghek, trailblazer Sitech Services

Towering ambitions
Brightsite has a high level of ambition, Lia concludes. "We want to create a center for the development and application of technological knowledge that companies from all over the world can rely on. A center where meeting climate objectives goes hand in hand with global competitiveness. A center where we work with industry to develop the technical innovations required to facilitate the transition to sustainable energy and raw materials. And a center with a positive impact on employment in the region."

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