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FLIE: accelerating innovation

Not only does the machine have a great name – Zeus, named after the Greek supreme god – but it is also going to do impressive things. Director Peter van Hooft: ‘At FLIE, our pilot and test sites allow us to accelerate innovative technologies and ensure they are market-ready. Much needed if we want to meet climate targets. What drives me is bringing people together who want to improve the world.’

Source: Port of Rotterdam

FLIE stands for Fieldlab Industrial Electrification and is a partnership of Deltalinqs, FME, the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Innovation Quarter and TNO. FLIE is being developed in close cooperation with the ERDF grant, the Municipality of Rotterdam and the Province of Zuid-Holland. Peter: ‘We want to provide practical support for the energy transition in the Rotterdam port area. FLIE is a knowledge centre focusing on electrification for companies and other parties, offering practical help and support and giving advice on process innovation. Plus, we are a demo and test site: we provide physical infrastructure and facilities such as gas and electricity supplies and measurement infrastructure. That makes the Fieldlab unique. We make it possible to test new innovative technologies at an industrially relevant scale in the process chain. This is how we demonstrate the added value of the systems. Investment risk is thus reduced, facilitating further large-scale development together with the industry.’

New layout of the port industrial complex

The Fieldlab has been running for about two years now, Peter says. ‘We have already completed some 20 feasibility projects with start-ups and industrial parties. This involves working closely with the Port of Rotterdam Authority, also one of the partners in this cooperative venture. Together we are looking at how best to restructure the port industrial complex. What is needed? This requires us to focus on the circular economy and materials transition. But most importantly, on near-term energy requirements. It is important that we accelerate the energy transition. After all, we all agreed the climate targets together. So that is where we want to focus our efforts.’

Formic acid

At FLIE, innovations can be developed and safely tested. These are mainly innovations in converting electricity to heat and converting CO2 to usable energy. Peter: ‘A great example is the Zeus plant, developed by TNO/VoltaChem. This plant converts green CO2 into formic acid. Formic acid is a substance that insects and plants produce when defending themselves. It is widely used in industry, for example in the production of pharmaceuticals. Once the Zeus system is validated and approved at the Fieldlab, TNO can scale up further and establish a pilot plant. The goal is to achieve about 2.5 megatons of emission reductions per year with this.’

Conductor bringing parties together

‘There is too much CO2 in the air and that is a big problem. Drastic measures are needed to meet climate targets. So less carbon emissions in industry and more new, clean and sustainable production processes. And we really need to accelerate this transition. I see myself as a conductor who brings people together, people who are equally passionate about further accelerating the process. What drives me is bringing together parties who want to improve the world. In a few years, we want FLIE to make ten systems market-ready every year, delivering a positive contribution to the electrification of industry.’

Does Peter have any tips for other companies? ‘The climate challenge is big, but achievable. We help find great solutions for specific processes and waste flows. No acceleration without cooperation – we can do this together, so join the conversation!’

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