Bio-based economy

Industry based on vegetal raw materials

The bio-based industry uses renewable, natural raw materials such as maize, grain, vegetable oil, animal fats, used frying fat and wood biomass for the production of energy, fuels and chemicals. The Port Authority sees an increase in the commercial and social demand for renewable raw materials. It also recognises the importance of a strong, healthy (petro) energy and chemical cluster, which largely determines the favourable business climate for (new) bio-based industry in Rotterdam.

From fossil fuels to bio-based Industry
Fossil fuels such as crude oil, coal and natural gas were created millions of years ago out of biomass, which stores CO₂ from the atmosphere. The stored CO₂ is now being emitted in a relatively short period in the combustion of fossil fuels. The bio-based industry uses vegetal material, which releases much less CO2 since plants absorb CO₂ from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. The CO2 is released during combustion, but can then be re-absorbed. Thus while fossil fuels contribute to negative climate change, the bio-based industry ensures a significant reduction in CO₂ emissions.

The Port of Rotterdam: an ideal place for bio-based industry

Import and storage
Production of fuel based on bio-based products requires a huge amount of raw materials, only a portion of which can be produced in the Netherlands; the rest must be imported. The Port of Rotterdam is ideally located for import and storage of first and second generation biomass. This applies to all kinds, such as maize, sugar and wood chips.

Bio-based industry in the port
The Port of Rotterdam houses the world’s largest industrial cluster that uses biomass as raw material. Bio-based companies here benefit from endless possibilities of supply of all the conceivable forms of biomass and distribution of final products. The presence of a strong petrochemical cluster and the knowledge and experience of the existing bio-based industry make Rotterdam an attractive business location.

Bio-based industry components

The bio-based industry can contribute to the energy transition since, in the long term, it can (partially) replace the fossil fuel industry. Production, trade, storage and transhipment of biofuels converge in the Port of Rotterdam. The port’s location is ideal for supply of raw materials and biofuels from the entire world. The same applies to distribution of biofuels in Europe. There are five biofuel production facilities in Rotterdam, and there is room for growth.


Many companies want to reduce their carbon footprint (emissions) by replacing their products based on traditional (fossil) chemicals with products based on bio-based chemicals, for example the Coca Cola ‘Plant Bottle.’ However, companies with such ambitions often require that bio-based industry not be more expensive than traditional production in the long term, while the costs of biochemistry can be more expensive in comparison to fossil oil, especially when oil prices are low. An example of an alternative method is the waste-2-chemicals industry, where synthetic gas, and subsequently methanol, is produced from residual flows.

Another solution is for companies to search for alternative values or applications from bio raw materials, which are not shared by other ‘non-bio-based’ products, for example by searching for products that can be extracted more easily from biomass such as sugar than from fossil fuels, or for example packaging material that can be processed into compost. This increases the value of the bio-based raw materials.


Co-firing in particular in power plants or steam boilers can be part of bio-based industry. This applies for the current co-firing in coal plants as well as for possible future bio-refineries. If sugars and substances used in the manufacture of chemicals are extracted from the biomass, lignin is left over which can then be incinerated to generate energy.


Would you like to know more about this subject? Please contact:

Stijn Effting
Program Manager Renewable Chemicals and Fuels

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