Pleased to meet: Rajat Bhardwaj

03-05-2021 | P2Integrate

Technical lead technology integration in industrial value chains

Pleased to meet: Rajat BhardwajIn this series we put the spotlight on VoltaChem key experts and get to know them more in-depth. We explore their role, background, expertise, motivations, ambition, and more. In this edition: Rajat Bhardwaj, Technical Lead of the Power-2-Integrate program line at VoltaChem.

Rajat Bhardwaj studied Chemical Engineering and obtained his BE from the University of Mumbai (2007) and his MSc (2010) and PhD (2016) at TU Delft. He started his working career in 2010 and has since been a project manager, research engineer and technical manager at various employers. In 2016 he joined TNO as a research scientist. Since 2020 he is the lead technical expert in the Power-2-Integrate program line of VoltaChem.

What is your job at VoltaChem about?

It's about reducing CO2 emissions at petrochemical industrial sites. This is a complex task in many ways. It involves assessing the potential of alternative sources of energy and feedstocks such as biomass, green electricity, hydrogen, and waste streams. And with a multitude of available technologies in various stages of development, it is even more difficult to evaluate all possibilities. We help companies to establish the no-regret options regarding the technologies of today. And we help them to identify the relevant technologies of tomorrow, the technologies that fit their current assets, future ambitions and give them a long term licence to operate. Thus we help them to develop their roadmap towards a CO2 neutral future. 

A crucial aspect in all this is the setting of industrial clusters. We have done quite a few studies with more than 25 individual companies, contributing to plans for a future reduction of 30 Mton CO2 in future. A big outcome of this work has been the learning that that there are much bigger opportunities if you solve things at the cluster level. In particular the focus is on identifying and establishing integration possibilities where companies exchange materials and/or heat. Many companies find it hard to establish how future technologies can be fitted into their current infrastructure. Let alone how to establish a collaboration/integration with their neighbours. That's the gap that we help to overcome. From the cluster perspective the issue is to provide the right future infrastructure, but to avoid redundancies. In Rotterdam, together with Deltalinqs, we help the Port of Rotterdam, Stedin, and other stakeholders to decide about the most logical and effective infrastructure in service of the future operations of its 'residents'. With a focus on sustainability as well as profitability.

What is your personal ambition in this field? 

I want to establish the best options for the chemical industry in how the chemicals of the future will be made, at what time and with what technology. This is an ambition that goes beyond Rotterdam, since every industrial cluster has its own features that determine if a technology really fits there. For instance, Chemelot in Geleen offers a somewhat 'natural' environment for circular and biobased technologies to blossom and build upon. For a place like Ludwigshafen methane pyrolysis could be a very nice fit. And to clusters like Rotterdam it comes more natural to use of wind-based electricity, storage of CO2, and import of CO2 neutral fuels and feedstocks. 

What keeps me awake is to find out, for the whole supercluster of Northwestern Europe, which technologies will be the natural home of producing what chemical and at which location. And then to build it! My energy ultimately comes from finding all the bright spots for building up industry. I really enjoy when I see major big projects being built as a result of efforts in which I played a role.

This requires you to be a jack of many (technology) trades! How do you do that?

Well, it indeed takes more than a day to get a grasp of the kinds of technology that are of relevance. But I have built up a lot of knowledge in the course of my career. I have experience in hydrogen production, heat integration, energy storage, CO2 capture and utilization, circularity of plastics, biomass. Adding to that is the inherent quality of TNO: we do almost everything. In case something is out of my scope, I know what expert to contact to help me along. That's the beauty of TNO.

Are you more of a technology generalist or more of a specialist? 

I find it very satisfying to develop and implement  technology. For VoltaChem my concern is with technological value chain integration, but at TNO I am the technical lead for the EMBER methane pyrolysis technology. Although this might be a rather unusual combination, I really enjoy pursuing both lines and ultimately seeing things built. That's where my energy comes from. 

You sound like a very busy man. Do you have time for any hobbies?

I work hard. That who I am and that's what I'm used to. For instance, I finished my PhD during nights and working weekends while I was daytime employed during the week. Although I have to say that now that I have a family life with two children, I don't have this urge to be a 'superhuman' anymore. I don't work more than ten hours a day and I meditate. I do yoga, that's what keeps me sane. I have several quick-burst ten-minute yoga sessions, at least two, three times a day. 

As a final question: why did you decide to come to the Netherlands?

Actually, after I obtained my BSc I had prepared applications to study at American universities. But it was 2008, the onset of the global financial crisis. As a result, the replies were less welcoming than I had hoped for. That's when the dean of my faculty suggested to shift my focus to the Netherlands. To be honest, I knew nothing about the country but really everybody I asked about it had a positive message. So that's when things got serious, I enrolled at TU Delft and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I really like it here. The two years of my Master'ss study at TU Delft were the two most fulfilling years of my life. I did almost everything I had planned to do. The main lesson I learnt is that if you have a reasonable idea, and a plan, there's always, always a direction you can go to make it happen. I really like that about the Netherlands. 

Are you interested in learning more about the electrification of industrial clusters in Northwest Europe? Then watch the footage of the first edition of the VoltaChem Power-2-X Tour that was held on March 31: Viable value chains: he Northwest European industry region as electrified supercluster

This is the third edition of our 'Pleased to meet:' series. You can read the first one here, featuring Power-2-Chemicals Technical Lead Earl Goetheer. The second one can be read here, featuring Power-2-Hydrogen Technical Lead Arend de Groot. 

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Monique Rijkers

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+31 6 233 465 16


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