The blog has reported in the past about the Malaysian Biotech hub, Bio-XCell, trying to attract several renewable chemical companies looking to invest capacities in the region such as the recent announcement from Verdezyne.
However, there are other chemical hubs who are looking to expand into the bio-based sector and one of them is the Port of Rotterdam.
Last year, the Port of Rotterdam Authority partnered with E.ON (power, heat and gas company), Evides Industriewater (wastewater treatment company), Stedin (heat and power infrastructure), and Vopak (tank storage provider) to create an 80-hectare ‘Plug & Play’ Bio-based Cluster on the Port’s Maasvlakte 2.
The partners aiming to offer services to businesses that want to set up in the area. Port of Rotterdam claims to be already the largest international Bio Port and this Plug & Play initiative will reportedly enhances its enormous potential as a hub for biobased industry.
The Plug & Play project allows businesses to no longer have to invest in the supply of power networks, tank storage, waste/process/drinking water, etc. It also gives the benefits of integration with existing businesses in the Rotterdam Industrial Complex, which is the largest area in the European Union. Logistics in the area also include liquid bulk terminals, rail terminals, direct access to deep sea container terminals, and direct access to international highways and inland waterways.
From an interview from the Port of Rotterdam Authority, here are some of the available feedstocks being handled in Rotterdam (2013 figures):
- Agribulk: 10,000,000 tons/y. Primarily consisting of cereals, wheat, corn, canola seeds
- Vegetable oils: 8,000,000 tons/y. Primarily consisting of palm oil, canola oil, animal fats and used cooking oils
- Wood pellets & wood chips: 1,000,000 tons/y
In an interview, Stijn Effting, business manager, chemical and biobased industry of the Port of Rotterdam noted my question about the competitiveness of sugar feedstock.
Sugar beets and wheat are the most-available sugar feedstock in Europe. It is interesting that the cost levels to produce sugar in Northwest Europe and especially the Netherlands are reportedly amongst the lowest in the world due to increasing crop and sugar yields in the field as well as production efficiencies. The region also has the ability to supply ample volumes of thick sugar juice on a year-round basis.
According to a recent report from Deloitte, international prices for white and raw sugar have ranged between $350 and $800 per ton over recent years. European industrial white sugar has reportedly been less volatile and converged to world market levels especially for EU prices on non-food sugars in 2013. A major change that will also impact the competitiveness of European sugar is when the EU will be lifting production quotas for food-grade sugar in 2017. This means the production volume of sugar beets sales will grow substantially and will entail production shifts to the most efficient growing areas in Europe. As of 2012, the EU reportedly uses beets for food (83%) and biofuels (13%).
I will report more about the competitiveness of sugar production in Europe for this month’s Tecnon OrbiChem Bio-materials newsletter. Back to the Port of Rotterdam, it is already home to several companies that uses agricultural feedstock.
- 4 palm oil refineries: 3.5 million tons/y
- 5 biofuel plants: 2 million tons/y
- 3 biochemical plants: 200,000 tons/y
- 1 Soy/rapeseed crusher
There are also demonstration facilities, pilot facilities and research centers for bio-based chemicals development at the site as well as more than 45 chemical companies and 5 oil refineries that could be synergistic for the bio-based cluster.