Metsä Group, Itochu jv demo plant for wood-based textile fibres

Metsä Group’s new innovation company Metsä Spring Ltd. and Japanese Itochu Corp. have formed a joint venture to invest about €40 million in building and operating a test plant to demonstrate a new technology for converting paper-grade pulp into textile fibres. Business Finland, a Finnish governmental funding agency, has made an R&D loan.

The plant will be next to Metsä Group’s bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland. Construction of the 500-tonne/y plant will begin in October 2018 with start-up in late 2019. The general engineering partner is Sweco.

”With the plant, and the demonstration project related to it, we aim to prove the technical feasibility of the new textile fibre production technology. Based on the results of the demonstration project, we can then evaluate the technical and economic realities of building a clearly larger plant in Finland in the future. During the demonstration project, which is expected to last two to three years from the start-up of the plant, we will also gather customer feedback related to the new fibres,” says Metsä Spring’s CEO, Niklas von Weymarn.

The new technology is based on direct dissolution using a novel solvent for the pulp dissolution stage. Metsä Group’s wet paper-grade pulp will be used as the raw material. The new technology is estimated to be more environmentally- friendly than the textile fibre production technologies currently in use. The new technology has been developed in development since 2009. The main collaborators include Aalto University, University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and TITK from Germany. Metsä Group’s own active development work started in 2012.

This is Metsä Spring’s first investment since it was established in May 2018. Metsä Spring invests, with partners, in new endeavours to identify and develop business opportunities in the sustainable forestbased bioeconomy and circular economy.

Metsä Spring, www.metsaspring.com

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