Trilateral Fully committed to innovation and infrastructure for a successful energy and climate transition. This should make the chemicals sector in Flanders, the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia – the beating heart of the Western European chemicals industry – the engine of the switch to a climate-neutral and circular economy. That is the objective of the trilateral chemical strategy, a partnership between these three leading chemical regions.
The governments of Flanders, the Netherlands and the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia launched a trilateral chemical strategy in September 2017. This brings together the government, industry, academia and the respective chemical federations essenscia, VNCI and VCI NRW to work together on a sustainable vision for the future for the chemicals sector, which is strongly represented in the three regions involved and of great economic importance. With over 350,000 jobs, the chemicals industry in Flanders, the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia is home to one of the most important chemical clusters in the world.
In the field of infrastructure, pipelines are particularly important to facilitate the transition to climate neutrality. However, the further development of a cross-border and modern pipeline network for the transport of, for example, LPG, propylene, CO2 or hydrogen requires significant investments and often comes up against complex planning and licensing procedures.
Within the trilateral chemical strategy, a collaboration has therefore been set up between eight international chemical companies and the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam to further expand the pipeline infrastructure in the region. Investments in recycling infrastructure for a circular economy and energy networks for the storage and efficient transport of carbon-free energy are also high on the agenda.
In terms of innovation, the chemical sector supplies the essential materials and techniques that enable our economy and society to achieve significant environmental and climate gains. It is an immense challenge to invent and test new technologies in a limited time span of several decades to radically reshape and green industrial production processes.
Three things are essential for this: sufficiently high innovation budgets, financial support and public-private investments in high-risk pilot installations and demonstration plants, and more innovative power for start-ups and scale-ups in the chemical industry.
Cracker of the future
The trilateral chemistry strategy also resulted in a leading international collaboration project with the ‘Cracker of the Future’ consortium. Within this consortium, six chemical companies are investigating the possibility of running cracker installations – where the essential basic molecules for the chemicals industry are produced – on green energy instead of on fossil fuels.