BSTC: knowledge center for sustainable chemistry

october 25, 2018

Chemical Park Chemelot aims to become climate-neutral by 2050, and to reduce CO2 emissions to (almost) zero. In order to achieve these ambitions, the Brightlands Sustainable Technology Center (BSTC) has been set up, a place where businesses, research institutes and knowledge institutes all work together to find revolutionary solutions. “BSTC will become a worldwide knowledge center.”

The challenge to turn Chemelot into an energy-neutral industrial park with no CO2 emissions is no small task. “No, it isn’t,” says Marc Dassen (photo), CEO of Sitech Services, the company that manages the facilities at the site and the adjacent Brightlands Chemelot Campus, “but we don’t have a choice. The Climate Agreement is clear, and the urgency is high. We are seeing the effects of climate change every day and fossil fuels are growing scarce. This is why we are setting up this center, together with the TNO, Brightlands and Maastricht University. If we hope to achieve the goals by 2050, we will have to start now. Most of the installations at the property were installed dozens of years ago. At the time they were built, no one had ever heard of CO2, in a manner of speaking.

There was an unlimited supply of oil and natural gas. Everything’s different now. We have to change course, but it’s naturally not that simple to build factories and installations to operate entirely on sustainable electricity in order to stop emissions of CO2 and other harmful substances. We need to develop new technologies and production methods to do this.”


In Marc Dassen’s view, the establishment of the Brightlands Sustainable Technology Center (BSTC) at Chemelot is only logical. “Knowledge and skills are available in abundance, and the same goes for facilities and pilot plants. Hundreds of specialists work at the campus every day to improve and refine production methods, and to develop new sustainable materials. We have a lot of experience with the construction and maintenance of installations. TNO and Maastricht University have the researchers, and at Sitech, our business is facilitating companies and making the actual transition of improvements from the drawing table to the factories possible. We are now bundling our strengths to get the energy transition started and to switch to CO2-neutral production methods.”


Initially, the research center will work for various companies at the Chemelot site. “This will mostly involve changing the production processes,” according to Marc Dassen. “Examples include converting CO2 to carbon, finding different ways of processing gases or naphtha cracking using a sustainable resource instead of oil. These are revolutionary technological changes that demand large investments, and time. The year 2050 may seem far off, but when you realize that installations undergo revision here every six years and the planning for this also takes six years, then it’s clear that there’s not that much time. Installations can be modified and adjusted during the major revision stops. This is why speed is of the essence.”
In the meantime, they are working on other measures such as connecting residual heat to the heating grid for the city, using steam more efficiently, fine-tuning production facilities, working on energy storage and generating solar energy, offsetting more emissions. “We can achieve percentage gains with relatively small, smart interventions. This is necessary, since the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 49 percent by the year 2030. This is only eleven years away.”

Knowledge center

BSTC looks beyond the confines of Chemelot. “Absolutely. This will be a knowledge center where businesses from Europe, and even the entire world, will be able to come for advice. In fact, this concept is part of the business model. We want to lead the way. Ultimately, setting up a sustainable chemical site in Sittard-Geleen won’t save the world. Energy transition must be achieved on a worldwide level, and CO2 emissions must be stopped. We can’t do this alone. The costs aren’t restricted to our site; bulk chemicals are a global business. It is an additional challenge to create a global playing field in which the governments in America and Asia set the same goals and standards as we have here.”
A location will be allocated to the center at the Brightlands campus in Geleen and will generate work for around 100 specialists within five years. “We are currently working out the finer points of the program in detail,” Marc Dassen says. “The first major research commission is in: the evaluation of the concrete sustainability plans that Chemelot management presented this past summer.”

Brightlands Chemelot Campus >

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