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The chemical industry mainly uses eco-friendly transport

For nearly 75% of its transport activity, the chemical, plastics and life sciences industry makes use of environment- friendly modes of transport with low emission factors (see table below CO2 emissions).

Pipelines remain a very important mode of transport for the chemical industry with more than 25% of the volume transported. With a share of about 5%, rail transport seems to be a minor mode of transport for the chemical industry but statistics are misleading. Rail transport is of vital importance for the ones using it. Air freight accounts only for a tiny part of the volume transported and is mainly used for high value added products such as pharmaceuticals.

rail: data 2011
Sources: Statistics Transport FPS Economy (except for pipelines); Fetrapi (pipelines) ; calculations essenscia

Even without considering pipelines, the chemical industry performs better than the whole industry. The share of road transport for the whole industry almost reaches 50% while 60% of volumes of the chemical life sciences sector are transported by water or by rail.

Recommended Average Emission Factors

Transport mode gCO2/tonne-km
Road transport 62
Rail transport. 22
Barge transport 31
Short sea 16
Intermodal road/rail 26
Intermodal road/barge 34
Intermodal road/short sea 21
Pipelines 5
Deep-sea container 8
Deep-sea tanker 5
Airfreight 602

Source: Alan McKinnon

Towards new logistics models            

The “horizontal supply chain collaboration” – the bundling of freight flows across multiple companies operating at the same supply chain level and having the same or complementary transport needs, creates logistics synergies and thus helps maximize asset utilisation, reduce costs and improve service level and sustainability.

The project between Tupperware and Procter & Gamble is a good illustration of horizontal collaboration.

This new business strategy potentially offers significant improvements. However, the greater challenge is promoting its acceptance and making it work in practice. These tasks have been undertaken by the EU-funded project Collaborative Concepts for Co-modality (CO³). The CO³ consortium, which gathered logistics specialists, manufacturing industry and transport service providers, worked on the topic of collaboration and co-modality for two years and produced a model framework with legal and operational guidelines for collaborative projects in the supply chain.

The bundling of cargoflows from several shippers (Baxter, Eternit, Ontex and Colruyt) between Belgium and Spain is a good example of test case which resulted in a +30% CO2 savings at equal costs.


With almost 50,000 wagons per year, the sector’s products are first taken to one of the 360 picking points located in Belgium, from where they are transported all round Europe.

Rail transport is vital in the supply chain of the chemical sector. This is partly due to the fact that “just-in-time” has become the norm for companies using rail transport. Rail transport is crucial and road transport is not really an alternative, as:

  • Road transport could not cope with the additional demand, given the high volumes transported by rail (1 wagon= 3 trucks);
  • CO2 emissions are significantly lower for train transport;
  • Companies currently using train transport do not possess sufficient truck handling capacity ((un)loading stations) on their sites;
  • Road transport is not allowed for certain dangerous products;
  • Switching to road transport would further worsen traffic congestion.

Therefore, many companies in our sector wish to maintain rail transport as part of their commitment to sustainable development.

Most of these volumes are transported in single wagons (i.e. vs. full train) mode. Companies in the sector have invested millions of euros in infrastructure, materials and training in Belgium over the past years to guarantee the single wagons future.

Given the importance of the port of Antwerp for single wagon transport, the Antwerp Port authority Alfaport Antwerpen and essenscia have together created a port railway operator under the name “Antwerp Railport”. This new player will focus on the traffic challenges (continuity, quality) in the port of Antwerp. “Antwerp Railport” is a neutral operator which will help any company proposing its services to the port/harbour to organize the related intra-port rail transport. This will create more efficient rail transportation and guarantee the continuity and the improvement of rail transport.


Pipelines are a very important mode of transport for the chemical industry. According to FETRAPI, about 25% of the 96 millions of tons of all products transported by pipelines are chemicals products. Furthermore important raw materials for the (petro)chemical industry such as crude oil are also transported via pipelines.

Antwerp lies at the center of the western European pipeline network.

Source: EPCA, Results of the Think Tank Sessions, August 2007

The pipelines network is evolving continuously thanks to new customers or additional requests from existing customers.

In Belgium the major bottleneck is the lack of a route for pipelines from the Port of Antwerp to the chemical companies in Limburg, The Netherlands and the German Ruhr area. The Flemish government and the Port of Antwerp started early 2015 together with the pipeline federation Fetrapi and essenscia a feasibility study to investigate the options for implementing an underground pipeline street between the Port of Antwerp and the Ruhr area. Results of this study are expected end 2015.

Bundling pipelines in a dedicated “pipeline streets” offers many advantages:

  • It is much safer: pipelines streets avoid densely populated areas. During future infrastructure works it is easier to avoid the pipeplines;
  • Compared to other transport modi, pipelines occupy less space;
  • Further economic developments between the largest oil- and chemical cluster of Europe and the Ruhr area requires additional space for pipelines.

Sector initiatives

Safe and sustainable transport: a top priority for the sector

The transportation of chemical products is subject to very strict rules and regulations, but the chemical industry still takes the initiative to set up additional actions to improve the safety of the logistics chain. As the transport of chemical products is mainly an international matter, for this purpose, essenscia works together with Cefic, the European sector organisation. As a federation, essenscia promotes the use of the safety tools developed, and organises conferences and seminars for its members. This occurs in collaboration with local authorities and transport experts.

Over recent years, in close cooperation with the transport sector, Cefic has developed several guidelines and tools, aimed at implementing a number of best practices as consistently as possible (CEFIC – Transport Logistics – Best Practice Guidelines). What are these guidelines? A number of guidelines relate to specific chemical products or product groups, which are hazardous. However, a series of general guidelines was also developed on transport and related logistic operations. In concrete terms, these relate to activities such as loading & unloading, and securing goods during transportation. Aside from these guidelines for safe transportation and secure logistics operations, a new practical guide was drawn up. This gives an in-depth analysis of logistic incidents and near-misses. What is the purpose? To draw the correct conclusions from past errors, in order to be able to work even more safely in the future.

Safe transportation is an important issue, but sustainable transport is also a subject that is gaining increasing attention. Under the motto ‘the numbers tell the tale’, the Heriot-Watt University of Edinburgh (UK), commissioned by Cefic, wrote a report on the measurement and management of CO2 emissions released during transportation of chemical goods. Based on this report a practical guide  was issued. It is a useful tool, which companies can use to calculate the CO2 emissions per quantity of product transported.

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Tupperware and Procter & Gamble: Going together to Greece

Transport en logistiek Tupperware en Procter_NL

At P&G, the filling ratio with which the number of pallets per transport container is expressed was 100%, while the filling ratio expressed as the number of cubic metres, was around 50%. Due to limitations in terms of weight/safety, certain heavy products should not exceed a certain height and filling up the empty space remaining at the top with one of the products transported was not permitted.

Tupperware was faced with the opposite problem: the filling ratio of the lorries was 85% in terms of volume, yet regarding weight this was only 35% (more voluminous yet light products).

When both companies noticed that their transport streams to Greece were almost identical concerning departure and destination, they decided to unite them.

In practice, this comes down to the Tupperware products leaving the production site in Aalst for the P&G warehouse in Mechelen, where the Tupperware products are divided into containers and stacked onto the heavier P&G products. The lorries then take the containers to the railway, where they subsequently leave by boat for Greece. In Athens, the Tupperware products are again gathered in the P&G warehouse in lorries that take them to the Tupperware site, which is around 100 km from Athens.

This horizontal collaboration has contributed to a considerable improvement of the degree to which vehicles are filled, which has risen from 55% to 85%. This cooperation also led to a decrease in traffic by 150.000 lorry-km/year, and a reduction in CO2 emissions of over 200T. Moreover, the costs for transport between Belgium and Greece decreased by more than 15%.

The future of transport and storage is in ‘cooperation’. This is the best investment for the generations to come and the future of our companies. As a company, we continue to explore new cooperation opportunities.
Koen Muylaert (Physical Distribution External Collaboration Leader, P&G)

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Exchanging know-how in transport en distribution safety

transportveiligheid BASF Transportation and Distribution Safety_NL-01

How does the inner side of a tank truck look like? Which are the different valves, openings and safety features to be found on a rail-tankcar? How to check that a tank container is suitable for the transport of a specific product? These are typical questions which were answered during the “Transportation and Distribution Safety (TDS) Practical Days” that took place at BASF Antwerp in May 2014. In 2014 the TDS Practical Days were hosted by three major sites in Europe: Antwerp, Schwarzheide and Ludwigshafen.

The objective of the Practical Days is to explain the legal as well as the BASF requirements that regulate TDS using practical examples and exercises. The practice oriented format offers the opportunity to see different TDS equipment/technology and to raise issues experienced in the daily work of participants. Internal and external TDS experts are available to answer questions or discuss actual TDS topics. In Antwerp for example, one of the four topics was about barge transport and BASF colleagues had the opportunity to board a barge.

This is the perfect complement to the classical Dangerous Goods classroom trainings that we give to employees every two years. Moreover it’s a great opportunity to meet colleagues from other functions or plants and to get information about upstream or downstream processes”, explains Yves Neefs (LPO/T), the TDS Adviser of BASF Antwerp and coordinator of the event.

At BASF Antwerp, about 260 employees were trained during six sessions each half a day long. Also Kurt Bock, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE, joined the event. “We were all impressed by the interest he showed and by the questions he raised” says Neefs. “I am happy that our top management shows such a commitment to Transportation Safety”, he adds.

transportveiligheid BASF Transportation and Distribution Safety_NL-02

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Lean & Green Award for Group Van Loon’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions

Group Van Loon has been rewarded with a Lean & Green Award for its efforts and commitment in reducing CO2 emissions of its trucking department.

The Lean & Green project of the VIL ( Flanders Institute for Logistics) is having an ever growing success and is generating every year an increasing number of companies willing and achieving effective CO2 reductions of at least 20% over a five-year period.

Situated in the heart of Antwerp’s unique chemical cluster, Van Loon’s main focus is on transport of both hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals in tank containers in the Antwerp port area, where Group Van Loon also has his one-stop-shop (depot-cleaning and repair) for the tank container industry.

Because a major part of the trucking is based in a zone of 40 kilometres to and from deep-sea terminals and chemical companies, their main focus to reduce CO2 is based on reducing empty legs and kilometres, making better combinations on terminals and depots and to reduce idling and waiting times in the factories. For this a series of measures has been undertaken, both internally and externally through cooperation with terminals and chemical companies. For waiting times have been reduced making fast and easy combinations with pick up and drop. With chemical companies logistical solutions have been developed evolving to on-site logistics thus avoiding queuing, waiting times and optimizing loading plants.

Besides the reduction of CO2, fuel consumption is reduced and costs are avoided. Together with the reduction of waiting times, Group Van Loon principle is to share these benefits with the customer thus creating effective cost reductions and a real win-win situation.

To increase the leverage of this optimisation, Group Van Loon is now aiming to develop a 4PL-service (4th Party Logistics), and joining the forces of several trucking companies to have a bigger leverage for these cost-reductions through optimization.

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Transpharma Express – exploring the new Silk Way for sustainable conditioned rail transport

The Flanders Institute for Logistics successfully concluded the collective research “Transpharma Express” project. The main objective of this project is the creation of a modal solution for the transport of conditioned goods over long distance by rail and more specifically over the Eurasian landmass between Western Europe and the Far-East, China. This project contained a wide range of challenges best explained by the global objective: to realize a reliable, technically realistic and efficient solution for conditioned rail transport over long distances, attracting enough flows to obtain an import/export balance and thus preserve the utilization of such a progressive concept.

This project was done in collaboration with various industry partners such as BASF, the Antwerp Development Agency, the Port of Antwerp, the Western Flanders Development Agency, Eastman through Solutia Europe, FVP House, MSD Be well, Pfizer, UCB Pharma and UTi.

The project consolidated and evaluated all technical, technological route and risk parameters after which the VIL focused on testing the alternative solution of temperature-controlled rail transport. The test confirmed the technical abilities of the 45´850 liter fully traceable diesel-electric reefer container.

The development of an industry standard, refrigerated, pallet-wide container increases the sustainability of the business model. Where this container type supports the requirements of quality, traceability and security in eastbound direction, it simultaneously offers a solution for the westbound shippers of electronics currently facing a winter break of at least three months. The alternative solution also proved to be twice as fast as maritime transport with the same minimal ecological impact.

The biggest challenge, however, is converting the technical, technological and economic possibilities into an independently working business model without needing additional external funding. In that respect, it is important, that the national Belarus, Russian, Kazakhstan and Chinese railways along the route as well as the Chongqing Logistics Council have understood the importance of collaborating and providing the market with a coordinated approach.

The first major requirement is the availability of a fleet of industry standard 45’ reefers. The first batch of 200 such containers was built in November 2014 and a further 700 are being planned for 2015.

The second major requirement from the industry and logistics service providers alike in order to effectively implement the balanced rail solution is to have commercial network to develop and run the operations. This should be put in place during the course of 2015.

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Eastman helps clients use methylamines safely

transportveiligheid Eastman-01   transportveiligheid Eastman-02   transportveiligheid Eastman-03

Eastman’s ‘Methylamines & Salts’ business unit launched a worldwide campaign on the safe transport and use of methylamines. Methylamines are transported in liquefied gas form and are flammable. It is therefore extremely important that they are handled and transported with the appropriate care.

In the past, the sales team regularly received questions from customers wanting to know the proper way to handle these products. In practice, gas tanks were regularly found to be damaged or returned by customers with incorrect labels.

In order to prevent this kind of problem with gas tanks, and in order to provide the correct answers to customers’ questions, Eastman started a training to instruct clients how to handle this substance safely. A worldwide campaign was launched in this context. Customers received, amongst others, a user-friendly manual showing how to discharge methylamines safely into gas tanks. They also received a USB-stick containing a video giving a step-by-step description of the discharge procedure. On top of that there is the assistance of the internal loading team, which helps clients all over the world interpret these safety instructions. All of this, with one clear aim: to ensure that Eastman’s customers are able to discharge the gas tanks safely, and thus send them back correctly.

This initiative proves that Eastman, as a Responsible Care company, takes the subject of ‘safety’ very seriously. And not just inside the company walls, but outside too. Indeed, this integrated approach is the best way to guarantee safety throughout the whole value chain.

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A substantial reduction of CO2 through Bayer’s Lean and Green action plan

transport en logistiek Covestro CO2 reductie

In the framework of the Lean and Green action plan set up by Bayer in 2012, various actions were taken to drastically reduce the CO2 emissions on the Antwerp site. These were measures which
were taken to thoroughly improve the transportation of raw materials and finished products.
The target to achieve a 20% reduction of CO2 by the end of 2015, was met. This was achieved, amongst others, due to these optimisations:

  • sodium hydroxide is no longer transported by lighter but via a pipeline;
  • the payload of marine vessels is being optimised. As the quays only permit a limited depth, in the past ships were only filled to 60% of capacity. In the context of this project, the extra 40% is being loaded onto a lighter. The load is transshipped from the lighter onto a marine vessel located at a deeper quay. This allows a larger volume of cargo to be transported per shipment. The positive effect of this is that the same volume can be transported using a smaller number of transports.
  • New compressors were installed, which are being used for the compressed air for removing plastic granules.
  • Various steps were taken to increase the payload of shipments of packaged goods.
  • A few additional interventions were performed, such as replacing diesel-powered forklift trucks with electric alternatives.
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