The Randstad Landscape of Oil:

Building a node in a global petroleum network

- written by Carola Hein

The Randstad, a polycentric conurbation in the northwest of the Netherlands, is a complex structure that has evolved over centuries. In 1958, the national government, the western provinces and the four big cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht agreed on a Development Scheme for the West of the Country and shortly thereafter Peter Hall included the densely populated Randstad in his book The World Cities (1966).(i) In contrast to most metropolises, the Randstad is not a singular administrative body, but encompasses several political units. It has fuzzy edges and overlaps with numerous economic spaces, including ones for oil. The Randstad is home to the ARA oil spot market that includes Amsterdam, home for refined petroleum products: Rotterdam, the center for crude, and, crossing the border to the South, Antwerp the petrochemical hub, the second largest petrochemical industrial complex in the world after Houston.(ii) Here, the physical flows of oil, from transportation to storage, refining and resale, intersect with financial and administrative installations, continuing a pattern that corporate and public players have established over the last 150 years. Much of the oil brought to Rotterdam and refined there, only passes through, but the region has also experienced the advent of the gasoline-fueled automobile and the ensuing massive transformation of the landscape just like any other industrialized country, a transformation accompanied and promoted by a range of publications from oil companies, such as road maps and brochures that advertise the use of cars in the context of the Netherlands.

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