Other countries are vying for the same title. Previously we reported on how Belgium is investing in a 'Silicon Valley' for the bioeconomy, called the Ghent Bioenergy Valley (earlier post), and how its port of Antwerp is rapidly becoming a 'bio-terminal' that imports and exports biomass and finished biofuels to and from the entire world (earlier post). These developments make it apparent that the future of biomass trade will be global: the developing world will become the main producer because of its competitive advantages, whereas bioports in the North will transform and distribute the biomass into finished bioproducts (an overview of some aspects of this future).
The Dutch InnovationNetwork has now published an interesting report showing what the concept of such a 'bioport' entails. In the study entitled "Bioport: Nederland als mainport voor biomassa" [*Dutch/*.pdf], the network shows that with its strong chemical, agricultural and logistical cluster, the Netherlands is well placed to fulfil a prominent role in a global biobased economy. The Netherlands would have to ship substantial volumes - up to 100 million tons - of biomass from abroad, which would result in new economic activity in logistics, processing and research and development. The challenge will be to develop the Netherlands into a major hub for biofuels and bioenergy, with synergies between the food, chemical and power sectors.
In order to achieve this, Mainport Rotterdam must be successfully transformed from an oil and chemical port to a port for the landing and processing of biofuel and biopower. Specific niches could be served by other harbours. This development will have a major impact on agricultural production and supply chains within and outside the Netherlands.
The study set out three primary tracks towards actual realization of the Bioport:
- A science port would profitably link knowledge, high-quality products and the development of specialized basic materials.
- A cascade port would achieve closed cycles as regards food, feed, chemicals and energy, and would generate added value in the exchange of products between chains rather than within chains.
- A logistics port would involve the development of a large-scale international Bioport in the port of Rotterdam (bio-Botlek district), which would play a key role both in energy distribution in north-western Europe and in the global trend of using biomass as an energy source.
energy :: sustainability :: ethanol :: biodiesel :: biomass :: bioenergy :: biofuels ::biomass trade :: bioport :: Netherlands ::
At this time, it is not certain who will be directing the Bioport development.
Exploratory interviews and meetings were held in 2006 to find interested parties for participation in the Bioport concept, among businesses already involved in biomass chains as well as parties in other sectors with complementary knowledge and skills (e.g. financial service providers or development companies). Activities are carried out in cooperation with the ports of Rotterdam and Groningen. Local and regional authorities, knowledge institutions and businesses are also involved.
Need for biomass imports
Of interest to the Biopact is the report's observation that Europe, and the Netherlands in particular, will become large importers of biomass. Because of the bulkiness of the raw materials (a lower energy density compared to that of fossil fuels), only sea and ocean transport will allow producers to keep transport costs low enough. The authors broadly sketch the chain through which the biomass resources will travel:
Because of these substantial volumes, new storage methods are required and large investments in transformation and conversion capacities will have to be made. In order to reduce the voluminosity of the biomass resources [...] we expect a first transformation to happen in the immediate vicinity of the production areas (within a radius of approximately 50 kilometers). So-called 'biocrude' will then be shipped to a processing site. This will be the case for biomass transformed into heavy fuels for industry. [...]Cascading and clustering
A second stream which is already being traded is that of biomass transformed locally into bio-ethanol, which is consequently transported over long distances by tanker. In both the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, this stream is growing significantly.
Finally, solid biomass for electricity production will be imported in bulk because it is competitive with its fossil counterpart, namely coal [pp. 25-26].
Using a 'cyclical innovation model' and a cascading model to describe the key drivers of the planned bioport and of the interlocking biomass and bioproducts streams, the authors conclude that a synergy between three clusters is most suitable for the situation in the Netherlands:
1. Science Bioport
This port would develop novel biobased products and materials. It would become a multidisciplinary knowledge center where the universities of Delft, Wageningen and Utrecht, as well as leading research organisations, cooperate intensively.
Synergies will emerge between 'hard' technology development in combination with green chemistry and plant biology.
Becoming a knowledge hub for the bioeconomy, the 'science port' is aimed at attracting highly specialised companies active in the biotech sector.
2. Cascade Bioport
The bioeconomy is fundamentally based on a cascading model: each waste-stream from a productive sector, becomes the input for a new productive stream.
The development of new applications of waste-streams will eventually create a closed loop from which high-tech bioproducts emerge. The only external input are 'primary' raw materials from abroad.
This cascading model will attract a cluster of businesses which thrive off each other.
3. Logistical Bioport
In order to create a smooth input of raw materials from abroad, the logistical port will import and store biomass, after which it is transformed into the building blocks for the green chemistry cascading cluster.
The planned infrastructure also focuses on the European hinterland (Germany, Eastern and Central Europe), which the Bioport aims to serve.
The energy needs for this logistical port will be served by biomass itself, through the utilisation of optimal and highly efficient heat and power coupling facitilies.
At the same time, electricity is produced and distributed at this node, making it an 'energy port'. This implies a 'virtual' networkport in which decentralised energy production (from biomass power plants located all over the Netherlands) will be coupled to the large-scale production of energy at the logistical port.
This way, scale advantages can be obtained.
The Bioport concept was developed by, amongst others, the following organisations: Port of Rotterdam, Technical University of Delft, Wageningen Agricultural University, Ecofys, Seaport, DoTank, LNV-Noord, the University of Utrecht, Zeeland Seaport, the Suikerunie (Sugar Union), Shell and the 'Platform Groene Grondstoffen' (Platform for Green Fuels). This consortium plans to implement the development of (parts) of the concept in the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, before the end of 2007.
Innovation Network: 'Bioport' concept page [*Dutch].
Innovation Network: Bioport: Nederland als mainport voor biomassa - report [*.pdf or check the intro page presenting the report, in *.html format], Jan. 2007.