ChemCologne: Europe's strongest chemical region

The Rhineland is one of the leading chemical regions in Europe. 260 chemical companies of all sizes and across all sectors and with a total of 70,000 employees are located in the region. Approximately 32 billion euro (not including the pharmaceutical industry) were generated in the chemical industry of the ChemCologne region* in 2019. This contributed to nearly 71% of North Rhine-Westphalia's total turnover, which is equivalent to 22% of Germany's total chemical turnover.

The ChemCologne region is centrally located in the economic center of the European Union. Almost 150 million people live within a 500 km radius. Additionally, a large number of processing companies from across nearly all sectors are situated in this area, forming an important market for the chemical industry in the Rhineland.

Parts of the urban area of Cologne, along with its neighbouring cities and districts, form the Cologne “chemical belt”. Major chemical sites and chemical parks with numerous plants producing diverse chemical products are located in this area. The product line of regional product plants ranges from fuel for modern engines to highly complex active agent molecules for life science applications. As is typical for the chemical industry, only 20% of the products reach the consumer directly. The remaining 80% are used as primary products and additives in all industry sectors. There are also many chemical-related processing companies in the ChemCologne region. Most of them are highly-specialised, small and medium-sized enterprises that are the market and technology leaders in their respective market niche. Whether highly-specialised, small and medium-sized enterprises or internationally active concerns – they all take advantage of the excellent location factor.

The chemical industry of the ChemCologne region has a long tradition. Most of the enterprises were founded in the 19th century and therefore participated in the industrial boom. These enterprises still contribute substantially to the prosperity of the ChemCologne region today. The strongest period of growth occurred during the reconstruction period after the Second World War and the years of the “economic miracle”. New enterprises were founded from the remains of the IG Farben conglomerate, as well as from joint ventures with foreign companies (e.g. in the petrol chemistry sector), which was rare for the chemical industry in this region until that time. The petroleum industry (Bayer – BP; today Ineos Cologne) in Cologne-Worringen and the Rheinische Olefinwerke (BASF – Shell; today LyondellBasell) in Wesseling are examples of such joint ventures.

Until the mid-1990s, almost all chemical plants in the Rhineland chemical region had an entrepreneurial unit of production plants and production sites. Increased restructuring in many chemical companies at the time, with consequential divestiture, outsourcing, and joint ventures, led to the dissolution of the entrepreneurial unit. Independent third parties emerged at chemical sites requiring infrastructures and services for autonomous production.

This situation saw the formation of new structures within the region's chemical industry over the past 20 years. Today, chemical and industrial parks are making their mark.

*(administrative districts of Cologne and Düsseldorf)