First phase of Spatial Research emphasizes the need for clear ambitions in the transition of the Industrial Cluster

First phase of Spatial Research emphasizes the need for clear ambitions in the transition of the Industrial Cluster

6 Jul 2021 | News

Insights from the field and recommendations for quantitative spatial analyses

Activities in the Port of Rotterdam industrial cluster (Haven-industrial Complex, HIC) will change over the next twenty years as a result of the energy and feedstock transition. To assess what spatial possibilities and limitations the companies now active in the extended fuel cluster envision due to this change, companies’ views on the future of the HIC were collected, analyzed, and interpreted in this first phase of this Spatial Research project.

CIEP (Clingendael International Energy Programme) was tasked with performing a preliminary analysis within this spatial research project before additional research is carried out by other knowledge organizations such as TNO. Read the full report of this first phase of the spatial research here

Interviews with 34 high-level professionals of major companies active in the HIC were conducted by the CIEP researchers. These revealed that some companies foresee spatial limitations as being a key barrier to developing new projects in the years leading up to 2030, while a few others indicated that sufficient land is currently available to realize new developments on site. For the period beyond 2030, the general view is that the availability of land will be a larger concern.

Additionally, the widely shared view is that other factors are far more restrictive for future developments. For example, the available environmental space was mentioned many times. This refers to limitations to emissions of nitrogen oxides (stikstof) and, to a lesser extent, restrictions on noise levels and the handling of hazardous substances. Finally, companies have concerns about the timely extensions and reinforcements of the electricity grid. Land required for transmission lines and substations is not readily available.

The interviews confirmed that a scenario approach is an appropriate method with which to explore future land use, given the current uncertainties. Transition pathways for the cluster that are currently used could be enriched with insights that are particularly relevant for a spatial analysis. Subsequently, demand for hectares in the HIC could be explored in three dimensions: the nature of the process of change, the future of international trade and markets, and the dominant technologies. Such a three-dimensional framework could be used for creating alternative transition scenarios for the HIC.

Based on the analysis, this report recommends five priority areas for future Port dialogues:

  • Recognize the existence of a looming spatial challenge that already plays a role at some individual sites and is expected to become more pronounced in the post-2030 period, in part because the energy and feedstock transition will progress in an asymmetrical manner. Regular meetings that constructively address these issues based on updated research findings can help remedy some of the uncertainties.
  • Highlight examples of how existing plants and sites in the Port contribute to a space-efficient transition. The transition could greatly gain from focusing on what brings the stakeholders in the HIC together rather than what divides them.
  • Acknowledge that the transition is part of a dynamic process of industrial change by taking a forward-looking perspective, accepting the present, and being discrete when echoing results of back casted scenarios. The three dimensions of uncertainty presented in the report can serve as a basis for such repeated forward-looking assessments.
  • Embed future (modeling-based) results of land use assessments in a wider set of narratives of Port development, and avoid the potential alienation of stakeholders by presenting (quantitative) assessments as isolated facts, inattentive to the wider discourse and the onsite developments.
  • Weigh the costs and benefits of the dynamic process of energy and feedstock transition on existing sites as opposed to developing new sites.

This study confirms that the energy and feedstock transition will lead to substantial changes in the Port of Rotterdam and its industrial cluster. ‘Business as usual’ is not anticipated by the companies. It is important to emphasize once again that this expectation far from guarantees the achievement of the desired degree of industrial renewal in the HIC. The widely shared view is that it is imperative to avoid ‘impracticable ambitions’ and to make sure that the political, regulatory, and societal framework in the run-up to 2030 supports the transition ambitions.

Questions? Do you have questions about this research? Please contact Mel Valies or dial 010-4020338 for SmartPort.