Chemelot wants to become Europe's first climate-neutral and circular chemical cluster

The Chemelot chemical park in Limburg aims to become the first fully climate-neutral and circular industrial cluster in Europe, by 2050 at the latest. The roadmap to achieve this was handed over to Minister Adriaansens of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy on 4 March. Chemelot has already made great strides with regard to electrification, but the help of grid operators and consistent government policy is needed to achieve its ambitions.


The Limburg industrial cluster Chemelot comprises 60 factories and more than 200 companies, including large production companies such as fertilizer manufacturer OCI, plastics manufacturer Sabic, and chemical and fertilizer manufacturer Borealis. Together, the companies are opting for a simultaneous transition to raw materials, energy and water.

In summary, it means that production will soon be completely climate-neutral and that all waste streams will be reused. Chemelot has set aside a total of €2 billion for the plans. Director Wouter Vermijs of USG, Chemelot's gas, water and electricity company, indicates that 'doing nothing' and thus remaining condemned to fossil fuels, would mean the end for Chemelot and chemistry:

"In the long run, fossil fuels will no longer be profitable. In Europe, we pay three times as much for energy as the United States and twice as much as in Asia."

Electric cracking processes

Electrification means replacing fossil energy sources with (green) electricity. For industry, this means that many processes, which are currently powered by coal or gas, will be powered by electricity in the future. The impact is particularly significant for the so-called cracking stoves from the chemical industry. These convert naphtha, an oil product, into all kinds of chemical building blocks that the industry produces on a daily basis, such as plastics. In the Netherlands, there are currently three companies that operate this type of stove. They can achieve a CO2 reduction of several megatons by switching to electricity. Replacing gas-fired cracker stoves with electric variants directly reduces those emissions.

At the Brightlands Chemelot innovation campus, a great deal of experience has already been gained with electrical cracking processes. Since 2022, there has been a collaboration with the Finnish company Coolbrook, which opened a large-scale pilot plant for the electric cracking of naphtha that year. Decarbonisation expert Coolbrook claims to be able to electrify and decarbonise processes up to 1700 °C, where other electric technology cannot reach.

Commercial production is scheduled to start in 2025.


Electrification will be the dominant sustainability route for Chemelot until 2035, mainly because of the initially limited availability – and therefore high price – of green hydrogen. After that, hydrogen will play a bigger role.

Currently, two-thirds of the electricity consumed by the industrial cluster is green. At the same time, there is still a considerable challenge, especially since consumption will increase by up to four times.

Grid capacity needs to be increased

A bigger problem is that the capacity on the high-voltage grid will start to be squeezed in almost every scenario from about 2027 onwards, says Vermijs. To enable the growth in electricity consumption, the supply capacity of electricity to Chemelot must be increased. Expansion is dependent on the realisation of a 380 kV connection between the TenneT substations Maasbracht and Graetheide. This reinforcement is planned for the period 2030-2032, but USG has already informed TenneT that this connection needs more priority, with completion in 2028 at the latest.

Uneven playing field

This does not yet include a possible further increase in network costs. "There is no level playing field in the EU," says the USG director, referring to the abolition of the indirect cost compensation (IKC) and the volume correction scheme. "That is a disadvantage of €60 million for Chemelot compared to competitors in Belgium who do get it."

Minister Adriaansens praised the plans and calculations made by Chemelot, which also make it easier for the government to draw up policy, and promised to certainly continue talks.

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