Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Green Week 2014: Chemical Innovation and the Circular Economy


SusChem will be taking an active role in Europe’s biggest annual conference on environmental policy that launches today (3 June). The Green Week 2014 conference takes place from 3 to 5 June in Brussels. And its themes for 2014 – the circular economy and resource efficiency – are topics where SusChem is already taking a lead.

The Green Week 2014 programme is full of SusChem relevant sessions and SusChem will be present throughout the week.

In particular session 6.3 on ‘Business and Resource Efficiency’ on Thursday morning from 11:30 addresses how businesses can improve resource efficiency, enhance competitiveness, reduce costs and contribute to better resource management. The session will showcase good practice and the potential for scale-up from companies participating in initiatives including the SPIRE (Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency) PPP.

During the session Pádraig Naughton, Innovation Manager - Resource and Energy Efficiency at Cefic (right), will talk about SPIRE and resource efficiency initiatives at the Dow Chemical company.

In his contribution Pádraig will be emphasising the underlying principle of the circular economy: that it cannot be achieved without wide-scale collaboration and cooperation. “There is a need to extend beyond company boundaries to regions, national and European levels,” says Pádraig. “We need to work with partners along the value chain, within and across sectors.”

SPIRE initiative
This is, of course, where initiatives like the SPIRE PPP, which is bringing together eight industry sectors to tackle resource and energy efficiency issues in a major pan-European cross-sectorial effort, are so important.

“An understanding and close cooperation with adjacent industries is required to maximize the benefits from waste and by-products, which could enable increased process efficiency in chemical processes,” says Pádraig.

Pádraig will also talk about other ongoing initiatives in the chemical industry and related sectors including developments at Dow’s Terneuzen complex in south-west Netherlands and a number of Cefic-SusChem FP7 funded projects including Chemical Regions for Resource Efficiency (R4R) and BIO-TIC.

A value chain approach is essential for success to ensure that the supply circle is closed and suppliers and all value chain partners, including consumers, enable the recycle and reuse of waste as a production resource. This means that cross-sectorial partnerships, such as SPIRE, must ensure that innovation is enabled and implemented across all elements of society. The innovation chain must connect research to customers to consumers to government and regulatory policymakers.

Technological and business solutions are being developed in local and EU-wide initiatives that can enable a circular economy, but there are policy, trade and image barriers that need to be addressed. “For example, cross-border transfer of waste remains a challenge which needs to tackled at EU level,” explains Pádraig.

Industrial symbiosis
The concept of industrial symbiosis will be an important part of the circular economy and will be included in the priorities in the new SusChem Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) to be launched for wider consultation at the SusChem Stakeholder event on 11 – 12 June.

Industrial symbiosis occurs where waste and side streams are used in an integrated concept for complete resource management at, for example, an industrial park, site or region. The strategic challenge of industrial symbiosis is to increase resource efficiency and turn waste, including chemical sector by-products and carbon dioxide (CO2), into resources. This will address issues including resource flows (materials and energy) to identify opportunities to reuse these resources, resource efficiency (i.e. new tools to optimize resource efficiency in manufacturing) and CO2 reuse (new products from reusing CO2).

#useCO2
Following the session on ‘Business and Resource Efficiency’ on the afternoon of 5 June these is also a session that directly addresses the use of CO2 as a potential raw material for industry.

Session 7.1 ‘Carbon dioxide – today’s waste, tomorrow’s raw material?’ will look at a range of emerging processes that are looking to use CO2 to produce chemicals, materials and fuels. This is an area where SusChem and SPIRE are already heavily engaged in the European Commission’s new research and innovation programme Horizon 2020.

The SusChem SIRA will further outline our thinking in this and other areas and the practical research and innovation activities that are required to turn the concepts of a circular society and radically improved resource efficiency into a reality.

Green Week 2014 will be taking place with events throughout Europe and Brussels. The venue for the main Green Week conference will be the Egg Conference Centre, Rue Bara, in Brussels. Visit the Green Week website for more details.

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