As part of an induction programme for new comers, Petrochemicals Europe’s staff headed in February to Antwerp to visit the Port and the BASF petrochemicals site. It gave the team the opportunity to get an insight into how the second-largest petrochemical cluster in the world works.

At the BASF site, the plant Manager, Rombout Keldermans, gave participants an overview of how the site and especially the steam cracker that break down the molecules into essential chemical building blocks (ethylene, benzene, propylene) operates.  The steam cracker is the biggest in North Western Europe and the last one built too. The integrated site means that as many steps as possible of chemical transformation are concentrated in one area to optimize resources. Ninety percent of the energy needs of the BASF site are met by waste gas and chemical heat recuperation, which is a unique example in the world of resource and energy efficiency. The plant is progressively using renewables to fulfill its energy needs. The production of chemicals only uses five to seven percent of the fossil feedstock, the rest goes to fuel for transport and heating. The steam cracker is going to be upgraded in order to make it more feedstock flexible, although it will remain fossil, oil or gas, for the time being. The transition to bio feedstock is not yet technically and economically feasible at least not for the next 20 years. The staff had the opportunity to enter the control room of the steam cracker and to have a tour of the installation (hot and cold areas).

Rose-Marie Pype from the Antwerp Port Authority  gave staff members an insightful and enthusiastic tour of the biggest port area in the world covering an area of over 12,068 hectares. She explained how the different company sites are interconnected and how they function together. The Port is also currently home to the Edith Maersk, the largest container ship in the world operated by a Chinese company. Ms. Pype mentioned the “zero Pellet loss” project, which is a unique collaboration between the industry, logistics and transport to keep plastic out of the environment. The initiative supported and initiated by Petrochemicals Europe’s Executive Director, Dorothée Arns, is part of Operation Clean Sweep and aims to reduce the loss of pellets to the absolute minimum.

Finally yet importantly, Dries Van Gheluwe from the Port Authority guided participants through famous building of the Port authority designed by Zaha Hadid. The building is located on top of the old fire station and has the shape of a ship. It offers a breathtaking view on the Port and the city of Antwerp.