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

Finland’s Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä SpringLtd. and Japan’s Itochu have a joint venturewhich will invest about €40million to build and operate atest plant to demonstrate a newtechnology for convertingpaper-grade pulp into textile fibres. Business Finland, aFinnish governmental fundingagency has provided an R&Dloan.

The 500-tonne/year demoplant will be next to MetsäGroup’s bioproduct mill inÄänekoski, Finland. Construction started in October 2018for a planned late 2019 start-up. The general engineeringpartner is Sweco.

The over-all aim is to provethe technical feasibility of thenew textile fibre productiontechnology with a view to evaluating the technical and economic realities of building alarger plant in Finland in thefuture. The demonstration period is expected to last two tothree years and will let MetsäSpring gather customer feedback related to the new fibres.

The new technology isbased on direct dissolutionusing a novel solvent for thepulp dissolution stage. MetsäGroup’s wet paper-grade pulpwill be used as the raw material. The new process isestimated to be more environmentally-friendly than the textile fibre production technologies currently in use. Thetechnology has been developedin joint research programmes,started in 2009, in collaboration with Aalto University,University of Helsinki, VTTTechnical Research Centre ofFinland and TITK from Germany. Metsä Group’s own active development work startedin 2012.

The textile fibre demo plantis the first investment of MetsäSpring, established in May2018. Metsä Spring invests together with partners to identifyand develop new business opportunities within the sustainable forest-based bioeconomyand circular economy.

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