Four possible locations are undergoing a detailed feasibility study: two in continental Europe and two in the UK. The plant will have an initial capacity of 25 000 tonne/year.
Courtaulds' first $90m commercial-sized Tencel fibre plant in Alabama, US, was commissioned in June 1992. A second plant in the state cost $134m and is under construction. This will increase Courtaulds' Tencel capacity in the US from 18 000 tonne/year to 43 000 tonne/year.
Tencel's fibre properties have allowed it to be utilised in end uses not previously possible for man-made cellulosics. These include denim jeans, chambray shirts and reusable non-woven apparel.
Currently, Tencel is focused on high quality, exclusive apparel markets, but it is being developed for use in non-woven and industrial uses where its strength and ability to absorb moisture give it a competitive advantage.
Gordon Campbell, Courtaulds' director responsible for fibres, said: 'The decision to invest over $200m in two commercial scale plants in the US is extremely sound. The technology has taken us a decade to perfect, but our experience with the US unit makes us confident that now is the time to bring Tencel to Europe.'
A truly global project, R&D for the fibre was carried out in the UK, it was made commercially in the US, and the market was developed in Japan.
Courtaulds is said to have pioneered the commercial manufacture of solvent spun cellulose fibre. Tencel is the first entirely new textile fibre to be developed for nearly 20 years. Courtaulds claims its is the only commercial scale producer of the product.