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Eco-Industrial Parks Looking to Enhance Economic and Environmental Performance

Industrial parks conjure up a negative image in the collective mind, one of air and ground pollution, waste emissions, accident hazards and disturbance to local residents. A new concept emerged in the United States in the 1990s – that of eco-industrial parks (EIPs) aimed at reconciling economic performance and environmental sustainability.  

View of the Pomacle-Bazancourt bio-refinery near Reims. Every year it converts 3 million metric tons of non-food biomass. ©Altus ARD

An eco-industrial park is a community of manufacturing and service businesses that seeks to enhance environmental and economic performance through the sharing of services and products and the collaborative management of energy, water and waste. The idea is to work together to generate a collective benefit, a process referred to as industrial symbiosis 1.

In 20 years, the EIP concept has spread across the globe. According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), there are about 20,000 parks worldwide. The number of businesses within a community can range from just a few to a few hundred, and even reach several thousand in a country like China. It is remarkable that EIPs have taken root in both developing and developed countries. With strong government support, China began to embrace the model in the first decade of the 21st century, and India has created several parks as well. The countries where the concept is the most firmly established are South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands. Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Australia and the United States have also often adopted the EIP system.

Energy and Water

20,000: the approximate number of eco-industrial parks worldwide.

While situations vary considerably from one EIP to another, there are four key areas of collaboration: energy, water, the exchange of waste materials and byproducts, and services.

HeatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... recovery is an important factor of energy conservation. A large amount of the heat produced by industrial processes is wasted (See Feature Report: Using Heat More Efficiently).

Instead of being released into the atmosphere, surplus heat can be recovered and used by neighboring businesses. Waste generated on site can be locally converted into heat, reused on-site or transferred to nearby district heating systems. Locally-generated electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor..., especially from renewable sources, can also be shared.

In many cases, the heat carrier is water, which is often scarce. To improve resource management, water treatment plants can be installed close to the water-intensive industries.

The scope of cooperation extends to numerous other sectors, including collaboration with research and technological innovation centers, regional job creation programs and projects to rationalize transportation and optimize land use.

Here are a few examples of EIPs around the world:

Tianjin Park2 – Located 130 kilometers from Beijing, the Tianjin Economic and Technical Development Area (TEDA) is one of China's 30 major industrial parks. Created in compliance with international standards and regulations, these State-sponsored pilot development zones are designed to attract foreign investment. TEDA is a sprawling industrial park comprised of 14,000 companies (1,500 industries and 5,000 foreign businesses) employing over 350,000 people. The park's first mission was to open up the local service market to leading corporations in the automobile (Toyota), information technology, food and petrochemical industries. Industrial symbiosis was established in two key areas: waste recyclingAny waste treatment process that uses materials from identical or similar end-of-life products or manufacturing waste to produce new products. and resource management. Waste treatment facilities were set up close to the waste-generating activities, and shared water and energy supply systems were installed.  Water proved to be scarce and the land was highly saline. A large coal-fired powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... plant was built to provide three other functions in addition to power generation: seawater desalination, the recovery of waste heatLike waste energy, waste heat is heat whose release during a process or the manufacture of a product is unavoidable... for reuse within the park and the recovery of fly ash to produce road coatings.

Eco- industrial parks improve water, energy and waste management.


Kalundborg Park3 – Situated northwest of Zealand, Denmark's biggest island, Kalundborg was the pioneer of eco-industrial parks. Its cooperation projects date back to 1961. Hindered by a lack of underground water, the Statoil refinery in Kalundborg needed a solution that would enable it to rationalize its consumption. In exchange for steam, the refinery pipes its effluent cooling water (approximately 30°C) to a nearby coal-fired power plant, which uses it as boiler feed. In the 1980s, a district heating system that recovers waste heat from the power plant was rolled out in Kalundborg. The off-site system has eliminated 3,500 oil-burning residential furnaces. Over time, glass, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology firms have joined the park, contributing to the mutually beneficial exchange of products and services and making Kalundborg a model of industrial symbiosis in Europe.

Rotterdam Harbor – Some 80 industrial firms (refining, petrochemicals, industrial gases) based in the Netherland’s largest port took the initiative to create an industrial park, motivated by a threefold objective to capture CO2 emissions, burn waste to supply heat to part of the city and install wind turbines and biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... power plants. One project involves recovering CO2 from a refinery and a biofuelsA fuel produced from plant or animal matter. There are currently two types of biofuel... unit and selling it to 500 agricultural greenhouse companies. The high concentration of CO2 promotes photosynthesisProcess used by plants to fuel their growth. Light energy from the Sun is utilized to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates... and increases greenhouse productivity. Another project involves capturing CO2 and storing it in Danish oil fields.

Pomacle-Bazancourt Park – Located near Reims in eastern France, the industrial park is unique because of its country setting, in comparison to other parks situated near ports or in city suburbs. The park stems from an initiative by a group of visionary farmers belonging to a 60-year-old beet sugar cooperative. In the 1990s the beet facility was converted into an agro-industrial complex and an innovation hub for processing non-food biomass that has solid ties to research institutes and is strongly supported by local and regional territories. The park exchanges organic materials and energy, and captures CO2. The development of bio-refineries such as Pomacle-Bazancourt is encouraged by the European Union.

The Deux Synthe Park – Situated near Dunkirk in northern France, the park was created in 1999 with the goal of revitalizing a deindustrialized region with environmental issues. The park is comprised of 160 businesses, many of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the steel (Arcelor Mittal, formerly Usinor), metals and petrochemicals industries. Hot air from the steel plant represents 70% of the energy used by a 40kilometer district heating network to produce heat for 16,000 homes. Gas from the steel plant is recovered by a combined cycle gas power plant, which provides 90% of the electricity used by Arcelor Mittal. The surplus power is added to the electricity market. A wide range of products and waste materials (sulfuric acid, mineral and wood waste, etc.) are collected and recycled. The SMEs also pool security, signage and mail services.



Sources :

(1) Sofies – International survey on eco-innovation

(2) TEDA website 

(3) Visit the Ecoparc website (in French)