Magnifying glass for better performance

Artificial intelligence (AI) may not provide world peace, but it will increase efficiency in the process industry. This became evident in a lively second edition of ‘Industrie in Gesprek’.

Click here to read the Dutch version of this article

On May 14, representatives from the process industry once again entered into discussions with each other and the public, through interviews, polls and chat messages. This time it was about the high expectations regarding machine learning, part of AI. Such a smart system works on the basis of an algorithm that, through experience, can automatically analyze data sets and sometimes also improve its own results. The algorithm builds on historical data, predicts and decides without being explicitly programmed to do so. Moderator Ann Robin, technology scout for project 6-25 of FME, kicks off the discussion: ‘The process industry is risk-averse; safety always comes first. So why would you apply an exciting new technique such as machine learning?’

Industrie in Gesprek - AI brain visual


According to Frans van den Akker, program director Industry 4.0 at the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology, the sector has long been accustomed to working with, for example, data from sensors and process control. ‘Machine learning is particularly good at recognizing patterns and detecting deviations. It is of especially good use when repetitive processes take place.’ Rob Burghard is director of enerGQ and has a lot of experience with the application of AI in energy, process and weather data. This allows energy-efficient settings to be advised and deviations to be detected. ‘If the complexity of installations increases, with all kinds of process parameters and weather conditions that you cannot capture in normal energy-based models, then it is useful to apply machine learning. It is like putting a magnifying glass on the performance of those installations.’ Michael van Hartskamp, ​​senior scientist at Philips, knows that the healthcare sector is risk-averse as well. ‘This sector processes a lot of data, too much for doctors to handle. So machine learning is very useful. Moreover, it is safe as there is no direct control of a device.’

The remaining question is what exactly distinguishes machine learning from the common models used in industry. What is new about it? Simon Jagers, founder of Semiotic Labs, is involved in smart machine monitoring. ‘In contrast to the current models, you can detect deviations with the help of machine learning without having to indicate in advance what you consider a deviation.’


The media also pay a lot of attention to the shadow side of AI. For example, this development could hinder innovation, limit human creativity and cause socially undesirable ‘bias’. However, according to the panel members, this does not have to be the case. Jagers: ‘I am optimistic about the contribution of technology to innovation. In the United States, for example, models have been developed that allow you to quickly assemble new materials in a virtual environment that are, for example, both cheap and good for the environment.’

Many questions are asked via chat, such as: do we believe a computer over a human? Burghard: ‘It remains an interplay between man and machine. However, there is an enormous aging population in the technical profession. The younger generation is harder to find and has less experience. In the long run, fewer people may be needed, but real intelligence will always be needed to make the final judgment.’ Van Hartskamp agrees: ‘Human cooperation gives confidence to the person who ultimately has to be at the controls.’ Expectations of the technology have been too high anyway, according to Jagers. ‘AI has been hyped. Now there is more rationalization and people understand that you first need to understand individual assets. A few algorithms will not bring about world peace.’

About this series

During the online event Industrie in Gesprek the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) discusses current topics such as innovation and AI with industry partners. Register now for the next edition which will be focused on the infrastructure for the energy transition and takes place on Thursday May 28.

The Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate has sent a Letter to Parliament about their vision for a sustainable basic industry by 2050, titled Sustainability of the basic industry; an opportunity for the Netherlands.

It illustrates how Dutch, European and global climate policy represents a fundamental change for industry. By 2050, industrial production must become climate neutral. At the same time, it is also clear that the world will still need basic industrial products by 2050. We will continue to drive, travel, dress, use medicines; all possible thanks to basic industry.

With this vision, the Dutch government outlines a new perspective for a sustainable, climate-neutral basic industry in the Netherlands. The transition to climate neutrality requires great efforts from companies and government: both financially and in terms of cooperation, with an active coordinating role for the national government.

On the other hand, there are enormous opportunities for the Dutch economy and for the Dutch contribution to solving the challenges of climate change. With a transition from its own basic industry, the Netherlands can become the breeding ground and accelerator for sustainable industry worldwide and at the same time strengthen its strategic position in industrial value chains.

The Letter to Parliament is the first part of a two-part vision for industry in 2050. The second part will be focused at the manufacturing industry. The latter will be published after summer.

Read the full Letter to Parliament (Dutch) here.

Use the momentum of this crisis to guide the economy in the right direction, argued participants of the Industrie in Gesprek online event. Incentives can create a more innovative, sustainable and circular process industry without being overly protectionistic about it.

Read this news item in Dutch here.

During this online event on April 30, the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) discussed the “big questions of today” with its community. Using interviews, polls and chat messages, the panel members Marco Waas (director of R&D and Technology at chemical company Nouryon), Erik Pijlman (CEO of the circular cellulose platform Recell) and Tjeerd Jongsma (director of ISPT) discussed with each other and in addition another fifty guests about innovation and sustainability in the process industry.

Event - Industrie in gesprek - Corona en innovatie - ©Adam Niescioruk

Strong guidance

Does innovation aimed at sustainability suffer under the corona crisis? “Innovation is still necessary,” is Waas’ experience. “Our factories are still running and I have meetings with international startups and scale-ups almost every day. You can maintain existing relationships well with Teams, building new relationships is more difficult. Nevertheless, I think that innovation will suffer least for the time being from the one and a half meter economy. However, this could be the ideal time to accelerate innovations.”
Pijlman sees this crisis as a good time to give more government direction to innovation. “Of course there was already a lot of encouragement, but that was too non-committal. The government could now provide stronger guidance.” In that case, the direction should mainly go towards a more sustainable and circular economy. For example, one of the participants suggested that the costs of recycling should be passed on to producers who use virgin material, rather than those who use recycled material. Another says that we need to take the time for the process: exploring new directions, bringing parties together and expanding visions.

Taxation versus stimulation

Tax measures can also stimulate innovation, such as CO2 tax. Pijl: “I think a CO2 tax is a very straight forward and fair way to stimulate innovation. It can certainly damage some sectors, but it mainly offers opportunities for innovations and new product-market combinations.” Jongsma thinks that a CO2 tax with the current extremely low oil price is not so effective, because it makes sustainable investments still more expensive than unsustainable investments. Waas would rather stimulate the demand side. “With the Renewable Energy Directive II [in which the European Union formulates objectives for sustainable energy, ed.], you create more demand for sustainable energy. That also creates fewer problems for international competitiveness.” Jongsma states that the government could offer a guaranteed price for, for example, sustainably produced basic chemicals such as methanol or naphtha. “The German government is considering offering this, similar to our SDE + scheme, so that you can sell raw materials back to the government. This guarantees that an investment will last.”


Should we become less dependent internationally? The poll illustrates a mix of opinions on this particular question. “We should not be overly protectionistic about it,” said Waas. “Globalization has brought much to the Netherlands. Now we can focus on a new economy and establish employment.” Jongsma thinks that a little more self-sufficiency is useful. “We also did this after the Second World War, by building up a large agricultural sector. We are still reaping the benefits of this.” Pijlman adds: “We are now struggling to produce simple things like face masks in our own country, so we have to ask ourselves whether we are doing the right thing. A circular economy means that you prefer not to drag your raw materials around the world. So first look at how you can organize your production in your own region or country.”

About this series

This Industry in Gesprek was the first online video event of a series, in which ISPT discusses current issues with partners. So it was a bit of an experiment, but it was received with great enthusiasm by the participants. “Very interesting conversation, I am very interested in a next meeting,” says one of the participants in the chat. “Good to treat so much in a short time,” says another. The following online events will take place on Thursday May 14 and Thursday May 28.

Hoe ziet de infrastructuur voor de Nederlandse industrie van de toekomst eruit?

Donderdag 28 mei om 15u00

Industrie in Gesprek - Windmolens landschap

Een belangrijke voorwaarde voor de energietransitie van de Nederlandse industrie is een infrastructuur die de uitrol van nieuwe technologieën ondersteunt. De Taskforce Infrastructuur Klimaatakkoord Industrie (Tiki) bracht op 13 mei een advies hierover uit aan de minister van Economische Zaken en Klimaat Eric Wiebes.

Conclusie: Nederland heeft een hele goede basis voor de infrastructuur die de industrie nodig heeft om grote duurzaamheidsstappen te kunnen maken.

Maar knelpunten zijn er ook. Waar liggen deze? En wat zien we als belangrijke kansen en prioriteiten om de industrie in haar transitieopgave succesvol te ondersteunen?

Dit en meer staat centraal tijdens de derde online paneldiscussie Industrie in Gesprek. Deze keer met panelleden Carolien Gehrels (ARCADIS), Ulco Vermeulen (Gasunie) en Tjeerd Jongsma (ISPT).

Registreer je nu.

Moderator: Andreas ten Cate

ISPT Team - Andreas ten Cate ©marc van der kort

Andreas ten Cate is programmadirecteur Systeemintegratie bij ISPT.

Industrielinqs - Videocall screenshot

Industrielinqs LIVE is een digitale talkshow over actuele ontwikkelingen in de industrie.

Event - Energy and Industry event in 2019

The European process industry and energy sector are partly responsible for
causing climate change. But, on the other hand, they can also make a major
contribution to providing solutions.

The European Industry & Energy Summit strives to foster ideas, technology, plans & projects to address this challenge by bringing together all relevant parties and expertise from around Europe.

More information follows soon.

De invloed van de coronacrisis op innovatie in de industrie

Donderdag 30 april – 15u00

Event - Industrie in gesprek - Corona en innovatie - ©Adam Niescioruk

COVID-19 dwingt iedereen om op andere manieren te werken en heeft grote invloed op de doelstellingen van organisaties. We vragen ons af hoe de toekomst en “het nieuwe normaal” er voor de industrie uit zal gaan zien.  

De algemene tendens is dat innovaties niet stil mogen komen te liggen. Toch is het voor alle betrokkenen zoeken en zitten veel organisaties vooral in overlevingsmodus. Dus hoe verder?

Donderdag gaan we – online – in gesprek om alvast een perspectief te bieden op innovatie in de nabije toekomst. Praat je mee? Registreer je gratis


Annita Westenbroek

ISPT Team - Annita Westenbroek ©marc van der kort

Annita wijdt haar professionele leven aan het realiseren van een biobased economy in Nederland en Europa. Ze is clusterdirecteur bij ISPT en innovatiemanager bij de Koninklijke VNP (brancheorganisatie van de Nederlandse papier- en kartonindustrie). Daarnaast vervult ze ook de rol van directeur bij het Dutch Biorefinery Cluster en voorzitter van het Biobased Circular Business Platform. Met haar diepgaande kennis, nuchtere kijk op de wereld en scherpe geest is zij de ideale persoon om de diepgang in dit gesprek op te zoeken.


ISPT Supervisory Board - Marco Waas

Marco Waas


Vice President & Director RD&I and Technology

Project leader - Erik Pijlman

Erik Pijlman

Recell – A circular cellulose platform

Partner & CEO

ISPT Team - Tjeerd Jongsma ©marc van der kort

Tjeerd Jongsma

Institute for Sustainable Process Technology


NPS17 - Conference view

The 17th edition of the Netherlands Process Technology Symposium (NPS17) will be held on 4-5 November 2020 on the campus of TU Delft, with the theme Sustaining the Future.

Sustaining the Future means developing new process routes, and re-innovating processes by applying known technologies across various industries. It is necessary to rethink the way industrial plants are designed and to bring engineering to the digital century to optimize process control. Examples include:

  • Delocalizing the industry to save energy and other resources.
  • Connecting processes.
  • Using advanced/ remote process control to optimize processes for a better use of resources.
  • Developing new process routes (CO2 as energy source or as chemical bond for further products).
  • Re-formulating consumer products based on sustainable ingredients and with reduced health or environmental impact.
  • Planning/ designing/ developing digitally to save resources and share knowledge all over the world.
  • Augmented reality for knowledge transfer, more safety and connectivity.

Please reserve the dates in your agenda. More information will follow soon.

Join this webinar to stay up to date with the latest subsidy schemes. TKI Energy and Industry, in collaboration with CO2 Smart Use and TKI New Gas, is organizing this online event on April 8 from 15.00 to 16.00.

On March 18th, the Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT) and its partners virtually kicked-off HyChain IV. This project helps to accelerate informed decision making for the deployment of hydrogen value chains and implementation of the hydrogen economy in the Netherlands and across Europe.

Hydrogen and future economy

Hydrogen plays a key role in the future economy as carbon-free energy carrier and feedstock. However, there is yet much uncertainty about the rate at which a hydrogen economy can be build. To clarify the needs and possibilities for the Dutch hydrogen infrastructure, investments are needed in all stages and sectors of the supply chain: production, storage, transportation and use. The HyChain IV project tries to create clarity in this uncertainty by developing models and tools.

How to deliver green hydrogen

The key solution of the HyChain IV project is to create a tool consisting of a common dataset and model that describe how investments need to be made over time to create the value chains that deliver green hydrogen from production to its use in the industry. This tool supports stakeholders in their decision making by identifying the most attractive investments needed to develop the hydrogen economy as an integral part of the energy transition challenge of the industry.

In addition a sustainable service model is developed that secures long-term access and maintenance of the tools and data. Th HyChain IV project focuses on the Netherlands as key region in the North Western European energy network. Within the Netherlands we will look in more detail into two industry clusters: the SouthWest Netherlands cluster (SWNL) and the Port of Rotterdam Region (POR).

HyChain - visual hydrogen economy

Future renewable hydrogen

The different HyChain projects look at the development of future renewable hydrogen value chains with the Netherlands as a focal point. Industry, consultants and knowledge institutes work together to clarify what is needed to build energy chains based on large-scale affordable production of green hydrogen. HyChain consists of five parts, of which the first three were finished in 2019. The HyChain projects are part of the Hydrohub Innovation Program. ISPT established this program to increase the understanding of the role of hydrogen in the industrial energy transition.

Read more about HyChain I, HyChain II, and HyChain III.

HyChain - Visual of hydrogen opportunities
ISPT Conference - crowd before stage

Does your work concern in any way the area of sustainable process technology? On Tuesday the 10th of November we would like to welcome you to our annual ISPT Conference in the Prodent Fabriek.

We invite you and our partners to join us on this dynamic day. The event is a place for networking, but also for inspiring each other and getting up to speed on the latest projects and results.

More information follows soon. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated.

Industry and research stakeholders recently kicked off a broad cooperation, the LOGIC project for the circular production of methanol. Other than the present way of producing methanol from natural gas, the LOGIC (Liquid-Out-Gas-In Concept) reactor produces (liquid) methanol directly from (gaseous) carbon dioxide and hydrogen. If the hydrogen originates from water electrolysis using renewable electricity, the methanol by the LOGIC process is fully renewable and circular.

LOGIC visualization of circular methanol

Methanol is an important product in the chemical industry, and will become even more important in the transition towards a sustainable economy. It can be used as clean energy carrier, for example as the diesel substituent DME or as versatile feedstock for the chemical industry. Many important base chemicals (such as ethylene or synthesis gas) can be produced from methanol. To date, only a small part of this methanol is produced sustainably, from biomass feedstock (bio methanol). If the carbon dioxide is taken directly from the air or from e.g. biogas upgrading facilities, the LOGIC project enables negative CO2 emissions.


The LOGIC reactor relies on internal gas circulation that can be driven by natural convection. The reaction of carbon dioxide and hydrogen to methanol produces the heat that is needed for the whole process, so the process can operate without external heat input. Moreover, more than 99% of the gas input is converted into methanol. The concept is innovative and energy efficient, and promises to become competitive with conventional methanol synthesis.

The reactor, an invention of the University of Twente, has been proven successfully on lab scale. The promising results initiated the broader cooperation of industry and research in the LOGIC project. 
The project aims at bringing the reactor towards the level of an industrial-scale demonstration project, within four years. For this purpose, some important technological issues have to be solved. Research will be largely concentrated on the design, operation and testing of a prototype reactor, producing several kilogram of methanol per day. The next step will be scaling up to a hundredfold production level.

Industry and research partners

The Institute for Sustainable Process Technology (ISPT), coordinates the LOGIC project as a part of the Circular Carbon Innovation Program. Partners are University of Twente, DMT Environmental Technology and Royal Dutch Shell.

Read more about the LOGIC project here.