19. December 2018

DOCKLAND Fine Chemicals

At the inner port of Oostende, the DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS pilot is trying to develop  a business scheme for small chemical companies, focusing on cost and energy efficiency. For small companies in chemical and gas industries (SEVESO-bound), the number of permits, security measures and safety regulations is overwhelming, hindering the business from developing in a sustainable way.

The idea

The idea behind the DOCKLAND pilot was initiated by GFS, an independent company, specialized in the storage and the handling of liquified gases,  located at the Port of Oostende. For companies with high risk products, such as gas storage, chemical components or otherwise, governments and local legislators demand  a high level of permanent control and reporting in order to guarantee the safety of the handling and the storage. Permits must be applied for and approved, in order to secure the safety of the surrounding environment, and neighboring facilities, both urban or industrial. Struggling with the enormous administrative burden of all these procedures in order to make the site operational, GFS has come up with the idea of developing the concept of co-siting within the chemical industry: by working collectively, small local businesses can save both costs and energy.

The challenge

Every time a chemical production or storage plant wants to change or to expand its operations, it must provide a new risk assessment, in order to prove that the company is not causing any risk to the direct environment. Insofar the new activity is not situated within the borders of the existing permits, this  company must apply for permits, securing that the external risks are minimized and that the surrounding environment is safe. It is the company’s responsible to assure and to attest that the procedures and the  products are not harming the environment. All these procedures are very time-consuming and very expensive due to the fact that they are hardly coordinated between the different levels of governance.

Moreover, urban planning moves closer and closer to industrial areas, and the ‘not-in-my-backyard’-syndrome, supported by political incompetence,  makes it very difficult for small businesses to keep their business operations in a sustainable way. Often procedures are suspended by court decisions, so that relevant investments need to be cancelled,  which can hurt the development of the  company. Finally, the European Commission has made the regulations much stricter which implies that procedures become even more complicated.

Therefore, the DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS  pilot aims to offer co-siting to different companies, active in the sector of fine chemicals,  giving them the opportunity to share permits and procedures, share  facilities, share energy sources and share logistic operations, thereby also saving energy. The overall management of the DOCKLAND concept will manage one major site, whereby 1 overall permit and 1 overall safety procedure, whereafter several SME’s can be clustered and connected (o.a. heath exchange). Permits will be given to the DOCKLAND operator, who takes care of the follow-up of the permit, the implementation of the different controls, the ever changing legislation and the development of the potential synergies. The companies, that sign up to DOCKLAND, will pay rent. The financial means, the human resources and the energy resources, that have been saved in this way, will be re-invested in innovation and development.  DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS will thus enhance a greener port strategy.

Development so far

One of the challenges of DOCKLAND has been to convince policy makers of the business case – making it possible to give a permit for one site, that will be shared by different companies. Actually, DOCKLAND FINE CHEMICALS, has the support of the Flemish ministries for economic development and for environment. A working group has been set up in order to accompany the difficult administrative processes that need to be coordinated. At the port of Oostende, GFS has started with the preparation of the procedure for the environmental permit, including a risk assessment. And at the Dutch-Belgian port of Gent, GFS has signed up for an area in the port of 13 hectares for organizing the DOCKLAND co-siting.

Meanwhile, the port of Oostende has validated the concept, and has been working on developing on a DOCKLAND OFFSHORE SUPPLY, and a DOCKLAND BREXIT.