maandag 20 juli 2015

What makes Chemelot so special

In Germany alone are at least 48 chemical industrial parks. Add to that sites elsewhere in Europe and there’s ample choice for chemical companies with investment plans. Why would they choose Chemelot?

Chemiepark BASF Ludwigshafen
A competitor of Chemelot?

At Chemelot is still room for expansion, for more chemical plants (under certain conditions). That’s good for employment, so it is important to entice chemical companies to invest at the site.

That’s not easy. Chemical companies are typically multinationals, exploring their opportunities worldwide. Especially the emerging economies come into view, foremost China and India. Also certain advantages of a region constitute important considerations. For example, America, with its relatively inexpensive shale gas, can be attractive. And when it is finally decided to invest in Europe, there is plenty of choice of locations.

So it is not obvious that one arrives at Chemelot. For instance, there’s nothing we can do against the chauvinistic choice of a Frenchman to invest in France. Yet, Chemelot has plenty to offer that distinguishes itself from many other sites.

Parallel development
First the similarities: the historical development of different chemical sites.

Chemelot was a DSM site (800 hectares) until 2002, when DSM deployed a new strategy that led to the divestment of many factories on the site. To begin with, the sale of the polyolefins activities to the Saudi Arabian company SABIC, followed by the fertilizer business to the Egyptian company OCI Nitrogen and the EPDM rubber plant to the German company LANXESS. In 2006, the Japanese chemical company Sekisui built a resins plant at the Chemelot site and currently QCP (Quality Circular Polymers) is building a polymer plant where plastic waste packaging serves as a raw material.

Similar developments have taken place on other sites; often only recently. The pattern is: a dominant owner of a chemical site changes its strategy and sells parts that subsequently flourish in new hands; at the same time the position of the original owner becomes less dominant. In addition to such new chemical companies, new service providers appear as a result of outsourcing, such as Intertek and DB Schenker at Chemelot. And – very important – the acquisition of new activities on the site (whether or not chemistry-related) starts.
We see the development from a 'monolithic' site into a 'multi-company' site.

We see this on a modest scale in Ludwigshafen (Rheinland-Pfalz, 1,000 ha) and Schwarzheide (Brandenburg, 265 ha), both sites are without any doubt still dominated by BASF. A joint venture between BASF and the English company INEOS was founded here in 2011, a new company for styrene-containing plastics: Styrolution.
Currently, the acquisition of new businesses here is targeted more on suppliers and (logistics) services than on (competing) chemical companies. At Schwarzheide the German company Proseat settled early this year, a manufacturer of car seats and not a chemical company.

At the Swiss site Schweizerhalle (near Basel), the biotechnology and pharmaceutical company Novartis (the result of a merger between Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz in 1996) is the dominant user. However, with the acquisition of Ciba Spezialitätenchemie in 2008, BASF acquired a factory on this site.

At Roussillon, in the South of France, the Osiris Chemicals Industry Platform (150 hectares) is located. Since the acquisition of Rhodia in 2011, Solvay (until 1998 Rhône-Poulenc) is the dominant user here. Since 2000, fifteen new businesses started here; some are new activities, others were acquired by Rhodia. The American company Hexcel is building a $ 250 million plant for carbon fiber in Roussillon, to be completed in 2018.

The Spanish city of Tarragona is strategically located near the Mediterranean Sea and the chemical industry here is among the top 5 in Europe. BASF also has a site (112 ha) at Tarragona, where, in addition to six BASF factories, six other factories are located.

Virtually nowhere we see that the original occupant of an area withdraws as much as DSM at Chemelot. Of the approximately thirty (clusters of) factories here no more than a handful is still DSM.

Chemelot and other sites serve as examples to follow. Without any divestment, DSM has opened its Delft site for new activities under the name Biotech Campus Delft (36 ha). As a consequence, recently the Bioprocess Pilot Facility was commissioned, where agricultural waste is used as a raw material for bioplastics and biofuels; DSM is one of the founders of this pilot plant.

The development of a chemical site may also be quite drastically: in 2011, the chemical company GPN sold the Northern French site Mazingarbe (180 hectares) in its entirety to the Spanish explosives manufacturer Maxam (in the same year, GPN was taken over by Borealis).

What makes Chemelot so special
For investors Chemelot is not so special because of its chemical plants. The products made at Chemelot are also produced elsewhere in Europe, albeit at various sites. That's how the companies at Chemelot encounter their competitors.
The availability of facilities such as electricity, steam, water, and industrial gases should primarily be regarded as a qualifier. Special indeed is Chemelot's umbrella permit, which is the environmental permit issued for the site in its entirety.

The presence of a campus with a large capacity for research and development in the fields of performance materials, bio-based materials and biomedical materials does not make Chemelot unique, but noteworthy. In fact, the presence of research is also claimed by some other chemical sites, including ValuePark near Leipzig (Saxony-Anhalt: Fraunhofer).

What does make Chemelot unique is the presence of education in chemistry at different levels: Chemelot Innovation and Learning Labs (CHILL, vocational training) and Maastricht Science Programme (bachelor). In September 2015, Maastricht University starts here a master Bio-based Materials.
Although there are some sites offering corporate training, including Höchst Industrial Park (near Frankfurt am Main, Hessen: Provadis), Chemelot is a chemical site where actually a university is located. Young people are studying the midst of the chemicals activities to which they can contribute later.

Also remember that companies that are founded on the campus can develop further on the industrial site.

In short, Chemelot Industrial Park and Brightlands Chemelot Campus form a strong couple.

An overview of chemical industrial parks in Europe was published in “Chemie Technik Special: Industrial Parks 2015”, a publication of the German publisher Hüthi: 
This blog post is a repost of my (Dutch) May 25, 2015 post.
Read my May 20, 2013 blog post about the reason why of my English reposts.