Two sites are under evaluation for the plant, Courtaulds' own site at Grimsby, UK, where production was piloted, and Hoechst's Kelheim site, near Munich, Germany. Despite reports in the UK press that a decision on the new plant is imminent, a Courtaulds spokesman confirmed last week that board approval is some months away.
An investment of around £80m ($119m) is envisaged. Capacity will depend on final discussions, but is expected to be around 20 000 tonne/year. An onstream date of 1996 is targeted, but will depend on the timing of the board approval.
The first commercial-scale plant came onstream at Mobile, Alabama, in mid-1992, with a capacity of 18 000 tonne/year. A second plant at the site, to raise capacity to 43 000 tonne/year, is due for completion in mid-1995. The UK pilot unit continues to operate, producing around 1500 tonne/year. Together the plants supply Japan, where the Tencel market is most developed, the US and Europe.
Courtaulds reports a very high market acceptance for Tencel, with demand outstripping current capacity. 'We should be in an easier position to develop the market once the new US capacity comes onstream,' the spokesman said.