Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring Ltd. and Japanese Itochu Corporation establish a joint venture, which invests approximately EUR 40 million in building and operating a test plant, with the aim to demonstrate a new technology for converting paper-grade pulp into textile fibres. Business Finland, a Finnish governmental funding agency, participates in the financing of the demo project with an R&D loan.
The textile fibre demo plant will be located next to Metsä Group’s bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland. Construction of the demo plant, with an annual capacity of about 500 tonnes, begins in October 2018 and it is planned to be started 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,” comments CEO of Metsä Spring Niklas von Weymarn.
The new technology to be studied and further developed in the demo project 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 basis for the new technology has been developed in joint research programmes, starting in 2009. The main collaborators, in terms of development of the technology, 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.
The textile fibre demo plant is the first investment of Metsä Spring, established in May 2018. Metsä Spring invests together with partners in new endeavours with the target to identify and develop new business opportunities within the sustainable forest-based bioeconomy and circular economy.
Metsä Spring arranges a media event related to the investment on 1 October 2018 at 1 pm EEST in SAS Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Runeberginkatu 2, Helsinki. Niklas von Weymarn and a representative of Itochu will be presenting in the event.
Metsä Fibre is a leading producer of bioproducts and bioenergy. The company’s pulp brand is Botnia and the sawn timber brand is Metsä Nordic Timber. The company’s bleached softwood and birch pulp grades have been developed for the production of high-quality board, tissue and printing paper and speciality products. The main applications for spruce and pine sawn timber are products for construction and interior decoration as well as window and door joinery and raw material for packaging industry. Currently employing approximately 1 200 people, the company’s sales totalled EUR 1.9 billion in 2017. Metsä Fibre is part of Metsä Group.
Metsä Group is a forerunner in sustainable bioeconomy utilising renewable wood from sustainably managed northern forests. Metsä Group focuses on wood supply and forest services, wood products, pulp, fresh fibre paperboards and tissue and cooking papers.
Metsä Group’s sales totalled EUR 5.0 billion in 2017, and it employs approximately 9,100 people. The Group operates in nearly 30 countries. Metsäliitto Cooperative is the parent company of Metsä Group and is owned by approximately 104,000 Finnish forest owners.