Biobased Program Manager Marijn Rijkers presented his views on the transition we can make to circular chemicals and materials in a Masterclass by Brightlands Chemelot Campus.

'Yes, we can make a transition from fossil to circular, mitigating the global warming. Very good news !'

Marijn Rijkers also discussed an interesting case: biomass via levulinic acid to materials. Check out all the highlights of the Masterclass in this summary provided for you.

Transition to circular chemicals and materials; What it takes to make it happen 

In a sustainable world the energy will mainly come directly from the sun, and materials from nature or post-consumer. Both resources are abundantly available. So yes, we can make a transition from fossil to circular, mitigating the global warming. Very good news!

Residual biomass appears a versatile source. Well managed forests for instance produce such biomass in branches, dead wood and leaves. All quite voluminous and rotting when we leave them, with carbon dioxide and methane -a much stronger greenhouse gas- evolution as a consequence. Rather pick it up, and collect, densify and dry it, to transportable commodities entering the chemical industry for producing materials with the same quality as their fossil equivalents!

Feedstock is typically converted to gas, naphtha, base chemicals, monomers, polymers, compounds, components and user goods. Carbon footprint is generated upstream, while value is generated downstream. Footprint will be minimized when going biobased, while value will be maximized by recycling, all quite complementary !

Marijn highlighted an interesting case: biomass via levulinic acid to materials. The more sustainable, the better the economics ! Such transition requires innovation, which needs all parties across the value chain to team-up, involving service providers and last but not least society.

All this is a good way to ‘green’ chemical sites like Chemelot. Start with introducing a circular feedstock producing bulk intermediates like bio-naphtha and hydrogen. Further downstream, processes stay the same, and so do assets: capital is nicely maintained !

Is this expensive? Not at all. For 2 bln €/year, less than 1% of the domestic income, the Dutch chemical industry is bound to become circular before 2050. Is it slow ? Not at all, if we go for it. If technologists have their way, full realization by 2035 is doable!

All good news, but it requires innovation, innovation and innovation. We are well equipped to embark on this, on the condition that our best circular processes will compete with fossil processes. This requires a CO2 price of typically 200 €/ton, seven times more than the current price. Or just prohibit the digging and drilling !

Innovation implies selection of best technologies and professional skills to develop those. The abovementioned 2 bln €/y for the Netherlands imply 20000 direct, highly qualified and diverse jobs, as well as a multitude (say 100000) indirect job, boosting the economy!

Need support? Involve InnoSyn and Chemelot InSciTe, helping entrepreneurs to realize their circular dreams by providing the required knowledge and infrastructure.

More information? Re-watch the Masterclass webinar  or download the full presentation of Marijn Rijkers here: 


Biobased Masterclass: Transition to circular chemicals and materials

Chemelot InSciTe