Landenprofiel - België
02 Dec 2014

Summary: Belgium is a federal state comprising three communities or regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels). Belgium is also divided in a Dutch-speaking area (Flanders and partly Brussels), a French-speaking (Wallonia and partly Brussels) and German-speaking area (East-Cantons).


After several constitutional reforms, regionalisation of the unitary state led to a partitioning of the different fields of policies over the federal, regional, and community governments. The structure of essenscia is modelled on the reality of the Belgian institutions, with federal, regional and community areas of competence in order to provide state of the art services. essenscia bruxelles, essenscia vlaanderen and essenscia wallonie, the three regional sections of essenscia, act as spokesmen for companies to the Brussels, Flemish and Walloon authorities on regional and community matters.

  • Contact point
  • Name
  • Ilse Forrez
  • Organisation
  • essenscia
  • Position
  • Expert, Energy and Climate
  • Phone
  • +32 486 12 60 86
  • E-mail
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Natural gas

As Belgium does not have any gas sources, it is completely dependent on imports from producing countries around the world. In 2012 the total Belgian gas demand was 185.6 TWh of which 72.3% was high-caloric gas (H-gas) and 27.7% low-caloric gas (L-gas). Belgium's supply of H-gas comes from LNG producing countries and sources in the North Sea and Russia. The H-network supplies the provinces of East and West Flanders, most of the provinces of Hainaut, Namur and Liège and much of the province of Limburg. Belgium's supply of L-gas comes from the Slochteren field in Groningen in the Netherlands, which is why it is known as 'Slochteren gas'. The L-network supplies part of the Brabant and Antwerp region, as well as parts of Limburg and Hainaut. (source: Fluxys, CREG)



The Belgian generation capacity amounts to 16,030 MW installed capacity in 2012. The share per type of energy source of the electricity produced centrally is shown in the figure below. Belgium is net-importer for electricity (9.94 TWh in 2012).


The sector of the chemical industry, plastics and life sciences is a very important industry in Belgium and represents in 2012:

  • 89,700 direct jobs
  • 150,000 indirect jobs
  • 61 billion euros revenue
  • 24 billion euros trade surplus
  • 2.75 billion euros R&D expenditure


The chemical industry, plastics and life sciences in Belgium counts 89,700 jobs in 2012 (estimate). This is a slight decrease of 0.7% compared to 2011. The share of the sector in total industrial employment shows an increasing trend: 17.7% in 2012 vs. 15.6% in 2000. Moreover, employment remained fairly stable in the sector over the last 30 years despite the considerable decline in the manufacturing sector because of automation and outsourcing. In addition to the direct jobs in the sector, chemicals, plastics and life sciences generate indirect employment in other Belgian industries. Thus, they provide employment to some 237,000 people in Belgium. In other words, each job in the chemical, plastics and in other words, life sciences creates 1.6 indirect jobs.

The chemical industry is a very heterogeneous sector. Basic chemicals, plastics and the pharmaceutical industry are the largest sub-sectors. Together they represent more than three quarters of the total employment in the sector.


Despite the economic crisis, the chemical industry in Belgium held up relatively well in 2012. Annual revenue grew by more than 3% and amounted to 61.1 billion euros in 2012. However, the turnover of the subsectors are diverse: pharmaceutical industry performed well, followed by basic chemistry. The plastic- and rubber processors and paints and varnishes saw their revenues decline because of the downturn in activity in the European automotive and construction sectors. The share of the whole sector in the manufacturing industry was 20.9% in 2012.

International trade

The chemical industry is very export-oriented. More than 75% of production is exported, which amounts to 110.7 billion euros of products (including transit operations), an increase of 2.6%. The sector, therefore, is the most important export sector of Belgium with a share of 31.8% of total exports of goods. Moreover, the international trade in products from chemistry provided for a positive trade surplus of 24 billion euros in 2012. The sector contributes in this way substantially to the growth of the Belgian economy and prosperity.

Added value

The chemical industry, plastics and life sciences in Belgium achieved 12.7 billion euros of gross value added (2011). The sector represents about 28% of the total added value of the entire processing industry compared to 24.6% ten years ago. The importance of the sector in the industrial structure in Belgium is increasing steadily.


Chemicals, plastics and life sciences is a capital-intensive industry. In 2012, investments amounted to 1.61 billion euros according to VAT statistics. This amount is 8% below the trend level of the last 10 years (1,76 billion euro), but is accounted for over a quarter of all industrial investments in Belgium and is still higher than in the crisis years 2009-2010 (1.4 billion euro).

R&D expenditure

The continuous growth in expenditures on research and development continued in 2012. The total R&D expenses of Belgian chemical industry amounted to 2.75 billion euros, a new record level. Between 2002 and 2012, R&D in the sector showed an average annual growth rate of 4%. The chemicals, plastics and life sciences is the most R&D-intensive sector in Belgium and accounts for more than half of the total R&D expenditure of the industry. Remarkable is that "life sciences" - the sectors of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology - represent about three quarters of the total expenditure of the sector.

Energy is essential to the chemical industry. It provides steam and electricity and is also a raw material for our products. Energy efficiency is ingrained in our daily operations and thinking patterns because energy costs are game changers for investment decisions.

Energy is one of the key indicators in the essenscia sustainable development report of 2013. To find out the evolutions on energy consumptions, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions and cogeneration in the Belgian chemicals sector, go to 

Sustainability report

SMEs from the chemicals, plastics and life sciences sector are a diverse group representing several subsectors with their own product-specific characteristics. The essenscia federation is an umbrella organisation with various product group federations:

Life sciences

  •, the Belgian association of the bioindustry, represents companies active in the research, development, production and marketing of biotechnological applications.
  •, the general association of the medicines industry, is active in marketing medicines and their reimbursement in Belgium.

Plastics & rubber processing

  •, the Belgian association of producers of plastic and rubber articles, defends the sector's interests. The polymers section represents producers of plastics and elastomers.

Specialty chemicals

  • LAB (Lubricants Association Belgium) represents the lubricants industry in Belgium.
  • IVP defends the interests of the paints, varnishes, printing inks and artists' colours industry.
  • Phytofar is the Belgian association of plant protection products (pesticides). Phytofar promotes a responsible use of phytopharmaceutical products to guarantee a sustainable agriculture that respects man, animals and the environment.
  • DETIC supports, guides and advises companies in marketing their products, services and solutions.
  • Producers and importers of preparations for the protection of wood are represented by Probois.

Created in Canada in 1985 and adopted by essenscia in 1991, the Responsible Care programme is a voluntary initiative of the chemical industry on a worldwide scale. Through this programme, companies commit themselves to permanently improving their performance in the areas of health, safety and environmental protection. Companies also commit to measuring their impact and communicating to the public with complete transparency about their performance in these areas.

Participation in the programme has become a requirement for membership in the federation.

  • Contact point
  • Name
  • Ilse Forrez
  • Organisation
  • essenscia
  • Position
  • Expert, Energy and Climate
  • Phone
  • +32 486 12 60 86
  • E-mail
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In both Flanders as in Wallonia there are voluntary energy efficiency agreements. In both regions new voluntary agreements are prepared for the next 7 years until 2020.

Benchmarking covenant

The Flemish Covenant Energy Benchmarking was approved by the Flemish Government on 29 November 2002 and had a working period up to 2012 with prolongations until 2014.

The Benchmarking Covenant was drawn up for large energy intensive industries, from all industrial sectors. Participation is possible per site. A minimum of 0.5 PJ per site was introduced. In specific cases (e.g. companies under ETS) industries below 0.5 PJ could take part in the benchmarking covenant.

By participation in the covenant, industries commit themselves to bring and/or keep the energy efficiency of their process installations on the level of the 'best international standard', at latest by 2012, taking into account that these standards will improve in the meantime. As compensation for the efforts of the industries, the Flemish Government guarantees that she will not impose additional measures concerning energy efficiency or CO2.

For more information:

Auditing covenant

This agreement focuses on medium-sized energy-intensive industrial companies (0.1-0.5 PJ) in Flanders, who did not belong to the scope of the benchmarking covenant. The companies commit themselves to an energy efficiency audit and to implement cost-effective measures. In the first phase from 2005 to 2008, measures with an internal rate of return (IRR) of at least 15% were implemented. In 2008 an update of the energy plan was made and the less profitable measures (with an IRR of at least 13.5%) were scheduled for implementation.

For more information:

Accords de Branche

Branch agreements can be made on a voluntary basis between the Walloon government and an industrial sector, represented by its federation. These branch agreements stand for strong engagements where, on the one side, the involved industry deploys measures for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions or for an increase in energy efficiency. On the other side, the government allows the industry a certain number of financial and administrative advantages.

After an intention declaration between the sector and the government, an audit within the companies is completed in order to evaluate the economic potential and to prepare the plans for greenhouse gas mitigation and/or increased energy efficiency. Financial aid for the realization of the audits is also provided in a branch agreement. Following that, quantitative objectives are fixed and agreed upon. Finally, the sector can choose the means of attaining the objectives and reports yearly the efforts and performance achieved to the government.

For more information: 

Other EU member countries

For a summary overview of other member countries profiles, please follow this link.

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