Monday, December 31, 2012

Early Tencel History from "Regenerated Cellulose Fibres" (part 3)

Regenerated Cellulose Fibres published by Woodhead Publishing Ltd in 2001 contains a history of the Tencel development, the third extract of which appears below. (see the original for references - click here for first extract)

American Enka decided not to commercialise the process and stopped the research in 1981, probably because at that time engineering issues associated with the difficulty of avoiding exothermic reactions looked too hard to resolve economically. However when Courtaulds had demonstrated practical solutions to the many problems discovered during American Enka's early work, they (Enka that is, now part of Akzo-Nobel) re-entered the field with the continuous filament version of the lyocell process under their brand name "Newcell". The Akzo deal with Courtaulds involved their gaining access to Courtaulds technology in exchange for granting Courtaulds rights to use some of the key steps in the early patents mentioned above.Coming right up to date, Akzo Nobel acquired Courtaulds in 1998, and formed Acordis Fibres, bringing together in one company all the key lyocell technology. However, Akzo-Nobel had earlier granted a lyocell license to Lenzing, the Austrian viscose fibre maker, allowing Lenzing to enter the field with a very similar process to Courtaulds. The ensuing patent litigation between Lenzing and Courtaulds was to prove costly to both companies.
Lenzing obtained a patent in the USA for a process, some aspects of which had been operated by Courtaulds for many years, and indeed were used in production at Courtaulds Tencel® plant in Mobile. Courtaulds naturally objected,

Acordis mulls a 'Tencel' plant in Asia (1998)

Geoff Blackburn was at the Genesis launch as Viscose Europe's Sales Director in 1986 and here he is 12 years later as President Acordis Asia. 

TAIPEI (CNI)--The world's largest dedicated fibres company, Acordis, may set up a Tencel manufacturing facility in Asia to tap the growing demand for lyocell fibre in the region, CNI learned Thursday.

Here on a business visit, Acordis president for Asia, Geoff Blackburn, said the company will study the demand/supply outlook to determine its precise approach.

"Theoretically, having a facility in Asia would position us to better serve regional customers," he added. "But we'll need to do more groundwork first."
Blackburn said Taiwan is a market where demand for Tencel has grown by 30%/year to reach 1000 tonne in 1998. He is optimistic that demand here will increase by another 30% next year.
Acordis is the new company that combines Courtaulds and Akzo Nobel's fibres operations, following Akzo's acquisition of Courtaulds last July.

05 November 1998 04:59  [Source: ICIS news]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Geoffrey Owen's Tencel lyocell history (part 1)

Geoffrey Owen of the Department of Management, London School of Economics presented a paper at SPRU in October this year entitled "Innovation in the man-made fibres industry: corporate strategy and national institutions." It is based on unpublished material made available to him by Akzo Nobel, Lenzing and Courtaulds (amongst others) and a draft is available in full here on the web as a PDF file.  It contains excellent sections on Tencel lyocell development history, the first extract of which is reproduced below. The subject is also covered in his recent book - essential reading for any students of success and failure in fibre development - "The Rise and Fall of Great Companies: Courtaulds and the reshaping of the man-made fibres industry" published by OUP, 2010.

Lyocell (Tencel): Courtaulds versus Lenzing: 

A disadvantage of the viscose process – and this was one of the reasons why several companies abandoned it – was that it was highly polluting. It used several toxic chemicals, most of which had to be disposed of as effluent. The search for a cleaner process, which began in the 1920s, was based on the idea that, instead of breaking up the cellulose extracted from woodpulp and regenerating it, cellulose might be dissolved directly using chemicals which would be easy to use and recover. The most promising solvent, first identified by two Swiss chemists in 1939, was an amine oxide, a non-toxic chemical, and this work was taken further after the war by Eastman Kodak in the US.

Eastman’s scientists filed their first solvent-spinning patent in 1966 but the company decided not to commercialise the process. American Enka, the US affiliate of the Dutch company Akzo, acquired the patents and made further improvements, principally in the solvent composition and in spinning. However, the company ran into problems when it tried to produce fibre on a large scale and spinning quality was poor. The Dutch parent company discontinued the work on solvent spinning and in 1985 sold American Enka to the German chemical company, BASF. The patents that American Enka had filed were put together in a manual and offered for sale.

(More to come)

The Eastman scientist who filed the first patent on NMMO as way of making cellulose dopes was Dee Lynn Johnson who moved to 3M later in his career.  In the early 90's I was invited to give a talk on lyocell at 3M's Technical Center in Minneapolis and had the pleasure of meeting Dee, then recently retired.  He was of course delighted that his cellulose dope idea was at last being commercialised to make Tencel fibre in Mobile.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Acordis shuts US Tencel plant (1999)

Acordis, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Akzo Nobel, is halting production of Tencel at its 43000 tonne/year Mobile, Alabama, US, plant,focusing operations at its other 42000 tonne/year plant in Grimsby, UK.

The company blames current market conditions for the closure and said the Tencel operations have been making a loss since the start of the Asian crisis. 'Until the Asian crisis, demand frequently exceeded our ability to supply,' said David Wilkinson, Acordis director responsible for Tencel.

Some sources believe Tencel's problem, since its launch in 1992, lies with its relatively high price relative to other fibres.

But Acordis maintains this is a temporary setback. The Mobile plant will be maintained in operational condition so that it can be brought back onstream when demand improves.

Acordis remains committed to Tencel, adding that programmes with major

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tencel Christmas Lunch 28/12/2012

Here are 2 snaps from the Christmas lunch gathering at at the Dog and Duck in Shardlow on 28/12/12.  Many more were taken by others there and if they    can be emailed to me I can add them here.

From Left to Right:  Barry Goddard, Calvin Woodings, Bob Morley, Geoff Blackburn, Pat White

From Left to Right:  Barry Goddard, Calvin Woodings, Geoff Blackburn, Pat White, Brian Fulleylove

Tencel Shrinks to Fit (1999)

  • Tencel Mobile plant is shut.  
  • Doubts about its (Tencel's) future.  
  • It's enormous development and patent battle costs resulted in huge cost burden.
  • Donald Anderson is quoted:  production difficulties constrained sales even before the Japanese (luxury) market slowdown.
  • No possibility of targeting commodity markets.
Acordis' decision to mothball the 43000 tonne/year Tencel plant at Mobile, Alabama, and concentrate production at the newer 42000 tonne/year Grimsby, UK, unit coincides with Lenzing announcing that its 12000 tonne/year Austrian line will under-run throughout 1999 while work proceeds on debottlenecking it to 20 000 tonne/year.

Lyocell, the generic name for the wonder fibre, the development costs of which left Courtaulds defenceless in the face of the Akzo Nobel approach and probably lay behind the recent departure of Lenzing's ceo Heinrich Stepniczka, is not fulfilling its early promise.

'We believe in lyocell,' says Lenzing spokeswoman, Rosemarie Schuller, tacitly admitting the doubts everyone feels about its future.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Acordis set to face the world on its own two feet (1998)

Akzo Nobel is to split off its fibres business, Acordis, in the second half of 1999. Created as a result of Akzo Nobel's takeover of Courtaulds earlier this year, Acordis has sales of around Dfl6bn ($12bn), and will operate as a separate business under Akzo Nobel from 1 January 1999. It will be the world's largest dedicated fibres production company.

On demerging, Akzo Nobel shareholders will be given Acordis shares, although details are not yet finalised.

Acordis employs around 19 000 people worldwide and will have its headquarters in Derby, UK. It will be registered in the Netherlands. Integration of the Courtaulds and Akzo Nobel fibres businesses is already under way. 'The Courtaulds and Akzo products are different, but do form a comprehensive range,' said Acordis. The main thrust of the integration is in aligning management and organisational styles.

Chairman of the supervisory board will be Gordon Campbell, former chief executive of Courtaulds. The day-to-day running of Acordis will be the responsibility of Folkert Blaisse, currently Akzo Nobel's director responsible for fibres. He will step down to concentrate on managing and developing Acordis. Meanwhile, the finance officer will be Patrick Shanley, formerly financial director of Courtaulds, and Peter Rogers of Courtaulds will be deputy chief executive of Acordis.

The group has production facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the US, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Poland, where it makes synthetic fibres and speciality materials for industrial, textile, medical and hygiene applications.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Courtaulds Name can't be used for Fibres (1998)

Akzo Nobel has to completely eliminate the name Courtaulds from its operations because of a deal on the splitting of Courtaulds into two separate entities in 1990. The units and subsidiaries of Courtaulds PLC are mostly changing their name to Akzo Nobel following the takeover of the company by Akzo Nobel.

When the former Courtaulds group was divided into Courtaulds PLC, the fibers, chemicals and paints operation, and Courtaulds Textiles, the fabrics and clothing business, the two agreed that if one was taken over, the rights to the name would revert to the other.

"Since the demerger, there has been a lot of confusion about what is a long established name," says a Courtaulds Textiles spokesperson. "Now that we have exclusive rights to it, we can create a much stronger corporate image and identity."

Meanwhile, Akzo Nobel is starting limited production of the cellulosic fiber lyocell, sold under the brand name Tencel, at its new 42,000-ton-per-year plant at Grimsby, UK. The unit, built by Courtaulds, was originally scheduled to start up in late 1997.

Lyocell Market Falters Despite Early Confidence (1998)

  • Tencel market collapses.
  • Soft Denim accounted for 80% of Tencel sales during expansion.
  • Dyeing and finishing problems slow uptake in other fabrics.
  • Courtaulds and Lenzing delay further capacity increase (but Courtaulds Tencel plant at Grimsby is ready to start)
  • Lenzing cut back R&D and marketing for lyocell.  "Looking for ways to minimise new plant start-up loss".
  • Setback for Akzo-Nobel plan to float-off the combined Courtaulds/Akzo Fibres operation (Acordis)
The growth in sales of lyocell, the new cellulosic fiber, has fallen so sharply that Courtaulds and Lenzing, its two manufacturers, have had to put back plans for production increases.  Lenzing has postponed, by at least one or two years, plans to debottleneck its 12,000-metric-ton-per-year lyocell plant at Heiligenkreuz, Austria, and build a second line of similar capacity.  Courtaulds has delayed until next year the full operation of a 42,000-ton lyocell plant at Grimsby, UK, its first European lyocell plant. That facility's start up has already been postponed twice.
The company, which will shortly change its name to Akzo Nobel PLC following its takeover by Akzo Nobel this summer, hailed lyocell as a "wonder fiber" when it was the first to launch the product in 1992 under the brand name Tencel.
Courtaulds predicted that lyocell, the first major new fiber in 30 years, would supplant viscose rayon as the main cellulosic fiber, with global output reaching 1 million tons per year early in the next century and 2 million tons by 2020.
Now the high hopes attached to the fiber have faded, and analysts say lyocell will take far longer to make significant inroads into the man-made fibers market.
Courtaulds pushed up capacity at its first Tencel facility in Mobile, Ala., to 55,000

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Akzo Nobel wins Courtaulds (1998)

...but they don't want the Fibres business.  The combined Akzo/Courtaulds fibres operations will be demerged, floated or just sold by the end of the decade.

Undervalued! The 450p/share offer is double the Courtaulds share price of a few months earlier.

The Tencel investment is seen as "one of the main reasons why Courtaulds hit hard times", but would "eventually make a strong contribution to profits".

Courtaulds' board has recommended shareholders accept Akzo Nobel's £1.83bn ($3bn) offer. Restructuring plans have been shelved and instead Courtaulds' chief executive, Gordon Campbell, is headed for a seat on the board of the enlarged company and a chief executive officer role when the combined fibres businesses are demerged.

There appears to be some disagreement over whether the 450p bid undervalues Courtaulds' assets. The acid test will be whether an alternative bidder emerges over the coming weeks. Cees van Lede, Akzo Nobel's chief executive officer, claims the offer is 'fair and more importantly certain value'.

The logic of the deal for both companies and their employees is compelling. The geographical and product portfolios have very little overlap. Redundancies are unlikely as is the possibility of production facility closures.
Cees van Lede claims the purchase of Courtaulds, 'the Rolls Royce of UK coatings and fibres', is a 'win-win deal', strengthening both the coatings and fibres businesses. It fits perfectly with Akzo Nobel's long-term strategic aims of being a world leader in coatings and eventually spinning off fibres as an independent business.
The combined coatings business now becomes a world leader. Combined 1997 coatings sales of Dfl11.5bn ($5.65bn) compare with Sherwin Williams at Dfl9.5bn and ICI at Dfl7bn.
While Akzo Nobel is big in decorative paints, car refinishes and wood, Courtaulds is a world leader in marine and yacht coatings, heavy-duty protective coatings and aerospace sealants.
If any anti-trust problems arise with the EU it is likely to be in the aerospace

Akzo Nobel bids for the whole of Courtaulds (1998)

Akzo Nobel last week confirmed it had made a play for UK coatings and fibres company Courtaulds. The Dutch group issued a statement which said that it was 'in talks with Courtaulds that may or may not lead to a cash offer' of an anticipated 450p/share, worth £1.8bn ($2.8bn).  The bid from Akzo Nobel, expected after Easter, provides Courtaulds with an alternative to its split plans.
Should the deal go through it would make Akzo Nobel - currently number three - the global leader in the paints and coatings league. Akzo Nobel said that post acquisition it would look at options for spinning off the combined fibres business which may include a demerger.
London analysts were generally positive towards the Akzo Nobel move saying it would create greater shareholder value for Courtaulds, but agreed that finding a buyer for the fibres business would prove tricky. Peter Mackey at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson said: 'Just putting the two together makes a bigger poorly operating business.'
But while both companies are involved in viscose production, it is the coatings

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tencel losses in 1997/98 blamed on Asia (1998)

Tencel had been making money - £10 million in 1996/97 but is expected to be in loss for the current year. The blame can be laid at the feet of Asia's problems. Asia is a major market for the fibre and the recovery in demand in the region has stalled. 

What Courtaulds calls the 'under-recovery' of the high costs associated with building the brand will leave Tencel in loss for the year. Plans for a new plant in the region have been put on hold until more settled economic conditions are achieved. The situation elsewhere in chemicals & fibres cannot be described as good. Margins are being squeezed by the strength of sterling, the result being the UK job losses. 

Courtaulds will sell to Hoechst its stake in the oriented polypropylene joint venture and acquire Hoechst's stake in the European Fibres joint venture. The result will be a net gain in the 1997/98 accounts. The viscose fibre business continues to be under severe pressure and Courtaulds says that its global capacity remains under review.

Source: ICIS 7th March 1998

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lenzing Lyocell Expands its Capacity (2000)

There is a growing demand worldwide for Lyocell fibers. In June 2000 the production capacity of the Lyocell plant at Heiligenkreuz was therefore expanded to 20,000 tonnes per year instead of the originally installed 12,000 tonnes per year. The company is already considering a further increase in capacity. As compared to the first semester 1999, the result of Lenzing Lyocell has clearly improved, but it is still negative. The combination of the successful implementation of our marketing strategy, the introduction of new products and the favorable market development should make it possible to achieve our earnings targets at a faster pace.

After a nearly two-year audit by the EU Commission, every single item of the whole package of grants to the Lyocell plant at Heiligenkreuz was approved as being in full conformity with EU competition rules.

Courtaulds Plans To Break Itself Into Two Pieces

More on the demerger in March 98:
  • Akzo Nobel and ICI looking at the International Paints business
  • Lenzing merger not ruled out for Fibres ("its a possibility but we are not actively talking about it", said Lenzing)
  • Tencel losing money and capacity set to double in a couple of months.
  • Polyester/cotton can now match Tencel's aesthetics in fashion apparel.
  • 500 jobs to go mainly in Fibres R&D (a good time to start a consultancy).
Courtaulds, which has been a subject of takeover speculation in recent months, announced last week that it is breaking itself up into two separate operations, with a third being sold off.

The company is making its coatings and sealants business, which in the financial year ending March 1997 had sales of £983 million ($1.6 billion), into a separately listed operation to be called International Coatings PLC.

The fibers and chemicals activity, with sales in 1996/97 of £874 million including the troubled viscose business, will continue to trade as Courtaulds PLC.

The polymer products operation, with sales last year of £228 million in packaging, mainly laminate and plastic tubes, and in performance films, is being sold because it would not fit comfortably with either of the two new independent entities.

"It has become apparent that the current structure of Courtaulds has impeded our efforts to release shareholder value," says Gordon Campbell, Courtaulds chief executive. "The separation will enable both (the coatings and fibers)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lenzing and Acordis postpone discussions on US joint venture (2000)

Wednesday, 16. August 2000

The planned alliance for viscose staple in the US between Lenzing and Acordis is more complex than it at first appeared.
In view of this the management of Lenzing and Acordis have agreed to postpone further talks on a US viscose staple joint venture to a later stage.
No further details are disclosed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Courtaulds splits fibres & chemicals from paints (1998)

450 redundancies in R&D at Coventry and Spondon.  A rare quote from Andy Hopkins (now sadly deceased) who, as the Cellulosics Technology Director, was speaking for the "hardest hit R&D Department in Coventry which is losing 100 jobs"
  • Tencel will suffer but not as much as viscose.
  • Courtaulds swaps OPP film for Hoechst's shares in European Viscose.
  • The polymers business is put up for sale.
  • The demerger creates a successful paints/sealants business and a struggling Fibres and Chemicals business.
Courtaulds is to de-merge its coatings operation into a separate business, International Coatings, leaving its hard-pressed fibres and chemicals division to sink or swim on its own. In the meantime, it is looking for a buyer for its polymers business - expected to raise more than £200m ($320m). The fibres and chemicals operation, which will retain the Courtaulds name, faces a heavily oversupplied market, increasing price competition from Asia, rock-bottom polyester prices, and a strong pound. It has been approaching rivals with proposals for joint ventures and mutual cuts in capacity but the industry - composed of much smaller companies - is wary of Courtaulds' size.

A de-merged fibres business would be a less daunting joint venture partner. Chief executive Gordon Campbell said: 'As a self-standing business it will be better placed to explore options which will facilitate the rationalisation of the fibres industry.'Simultaneously, the company announced a total of 500 job losses in the UK at its Coventry and Derby plants, aimed at saving £15m annually. Hardest hit is the research and technology department in Coventry, which is losing 100 jobs. Andy Hopkins, celluloids technology director, said: 'We

Courtaulds announces major restructuring (1998)

UK group Courtaulds on Wednesday announced a radical restructuring, including a separate listing for its coatings and sealants business, the sale of its polymer products activities and a major cost reduction programme in fibres and chemicals.

The group plans to cut about 500 fibres and chemicals jobs in the UK. It will also keep its global viscose fibre capacity under "constant review" Courtaulds said. The group has agreed to sell to Hoechst its minority stake in an oriented polypropylene (OPP) film joint venture, and to acquire Hoechst's stake in the European fibres joint venture.

Courtaulds' initial announcement did not say if it had a buyer for the polymer products business, which like fibres and chemicals has been hit hard by the

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lenzing's Corporate Revisionism Continues (2012)

Here's a version of the press release marking the 20th anniversary of Mobile Tencel Plant from the Asian Journal of Textiles and Apparel which makes no mention of Courtaulds.

One notable turn of phrase spotted:  "Tencel fibres are used by the textile industry as well as for nonwovens".  

I've added the appropriate comment to the site but that doesn't mean they'll publish it. (but they did - 19/12/12.  I notice Photo3 is of Kevin Allen with "customers", one of whom is Lenzing's COO Fibres Friedrich Weninger.)

Tencel Sales Down: Courtaulds, Lenzing Deny Merger (1998)

Courtaulds and Lenzing deny speculation that they are planning to merge their viscose operations. Both have, however, admitted that they have been discussing how to reduce overcapacity in the fiber.

"We have been talking to a number of producers about the problem of overcapacity," says a Courtaulds spokesman. "There has got to be a better balance between supply and demand in the sector."

Courtaulds last year reduced production of viscose in the UK for low-priced textile markets. The company also suffered a drop in orders for Tencel, its cellulosic lyocell fiber, as a result of excess stocks.

Lenzing and Courtaulds announced at the beginning of this year that they had settled their patent dispute over technology for the production of lyocell.

23 February 1998 [Source: ICB Americas]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tencel sales of £265 million expected by end 1997 (1996)

Gloomy news leavened only by the prediction that Tencel sales will reach £265m by end of 1997.  With capacity predicted to reach 100,000 tonnes capacity this assumes a sales price of £2.65/kg.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lenzing confirms bigger group losses in '97 (1997)

So Lenzing were having a difficult time too.  The phrase "prudential reserves of considerable magnitude are being built up in order to finance further (group) restructuring processes" maybe illustrates the differences between Austria and UK businesses.

Austrian fibres producer Lenzing confirmed Monday that additional restructuring provisions, the Asian currency crisis, start-up losses at its novel fibre business Lyocell and poor results from its Brazilian pulp plant Bacell will push the group into a greater deficit this year.

Although it did not disclose detailed figures, Lenzing said "prudential reserves of considerable magnitude are being built up in order to finance further (group) restructuring processes."

A company spokesman declined to quantify the exact scale of the restructuring costs but hinted that they would be at least Sch100m ($8m). He explained that they covered Lenzing's affiliated companies in Brazil and the US.

Lenzing blamed foreign exchange difficulties in Asia for a 1997 loss at South Pacific Viscose (SPV) in Indonesia.

"This factor, together with scheduled start-up losses at Lyocell and the disappointing result scored by Bacell, Brazil, will definitely lead to a deterioration in the Lenzing Group's results for the year 1997." The Lyocell fibre business is a rival to Tencel, made by Courtaulds of the UK.

Lenzing group losses last year totalled Sch30.3m ($2.54m) and compared with a profit in 1995 of Sch312.6m.

However, Lenzing said the restructuring measures will have a "clearly positive effect" on the group results by 1998.

It expects Lenzing Fibers Corp in the US to achieve a "clearly more positive result" in 1998 and said Bacell is "showing clear indications of improvements in operational terms." Lenzing said SPV would be generating positive results again in 1998.

In direct contrast with the group's 1997 results, Lenzing said its domestic operation Lenzing AG would report operating profits up Sch200m on 1996, when the company made a loss.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tencel Asia postponed indefinitely: Courtaulds open to a bid (1998)

Asia's growing economic crisis has forced Courtaulds, the chemicals group, to postpone plans for the construction of a £150m fibre plant in the Far East.

Gordon Campbell, chief executive of Courtaulds, said: "We were looking to set up a plant in Indonesia or Korea. But now we would like a bit of time to see what happens over there."  The new plant would have produced Tencel, Courtaulds' new "wonder fibre" and its location was to be announced last autumn. 

Building delays at the group's new £120m Tencel factory in Grimsby meant the construction of the Asian plant had already been put back by several months. Now the downturn in the Far East has lead to it being postponed indefinitely.

Courtaulds said that the economic crisis had already led to a dramatic fall in imports to the area from the West, with orders drying up at some of Courtaulds businesses. Mr Campbell said Asian economies would react to the severe problems at home by dumping their products on the developed world. "They will try to export their way out of trouble," he said.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lyocell Problems: From Lenzing Annual Report 1998

This post jumps ahead to the end of the period in review but is interesting in view of the sense of disappointment it communicates.  I'll look out the Courtaulds Annual Reports from this time.

The introduction of Lyocell to the market must be expected to require considerably more time than was originally assumed and will require additional funds. The Board of Management is, however, convinced that this fiber of a high-value technology has great potential for the future, although Lyocell will continue to generate a sometimes considerable burden on the business result in the years to come. 

...research in 1998 focussed on the further development of the Lyocell technology, especially in the transition of a low-fibrillation Lyocell fiber to large-scale technical production and market maturity, as well as on successfully completing the development of a flat  film on NMMO basis (Lyocell films). 

Activities focused on stepping up the market launch of the Lenzing Lyocell fiber. We were able to obtain good results with our product, especially with the Haute
Couture sector, with applications ranging from comfortable leisure - w e a r garments for men to upmarket lingerie collections for women. However, in spite of this success, the forecast sales quantities were not reached. One main reason for this development was primarily the dramatic decline of that textile segment where the Lyocell fiber would have created or enhanced novel surface effects on account of its special properties, such as for example the “soft denim“, “garment wash“ and “peach skin“ effects. In addition, the crisis in Asia caused an important export market like Japan to fall behind, which made it even more difficult to plan production and the accompanying operative situation. 

In November 1998, the Lyocell marketing and sales organization was integrated into the worldwide distribution of Lenzing AG. This created the basis for more effective and efficient marketing efforts.  In 1998, the production of Lyocell fibers at Heiligenkreuz , Austria, was also successfully transformed to use chlorinefree bleached pulp as a new primary material. This is another important step in actively applying Lenzing AG’s pollution-control philosophy. In recognition of its especially environmentally friendly technology, Lenzing Lyocell G.m.b.H. & Co KG was awarded the ecology prize of Austria’s industry. We are proud of this recognition, which is the result of many years of innovative research activities at Lenzing AG. 

In 1998, the EU Commission began to review the Lyocell project at Heiligenkreuz in connection with the subsidies granted. This review is a necessary measure, which is prescribed and required under EU subsidization provisions. In this connection, Lenzing AG is cooperating very closely with all bodies involved. The review is expected to be completed at the end of 1999. 

R&D Expenditure for research and development in the different sectors of Lenzing AG amounted to ATS 157.4  million*), which is a respectable 2.6 % of the sales of Lenzing AG and once more on a very high level that is far above the industry’s average.  The focus was on the production-oriented optimization of the Lyocell technology. A new type of Lyocell fiber with low fibrillation is meant to make further processing along the textile chain easier. The development was s u c c e s sfully completed and is planned for full-scale technical implem e n t a t i o n as of the middle of 1999.

Development work on flat films based on the Lyocell (NMMO) technology has been continued intensively. In December 1998, a cooperation agreement was signed with the Belgian company UCB, which is the market leader for cellophane films. Lenzing and UCB intend to join efforts in further developing this new product and bringing it to market maturity. The fact that this cooperation agreement was signed is a testimony of Lenzing AG’s high level of competence regarding the Lyocell technology. This type of cooperation serves as a pilot example of successful research activities by Lenzing AG, as well as a model for future cooperations and  alliances.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tencel sales fall: UK plant start up delayed (1997)

LONDON (CNI)--The strength of sterling continues to undermine results at Courtaulds which Wednesday reported first half pre-tax profits of £62m ($104m), nearly 5% lower than the same period last year, on sales 6% down at just over £1bn.
Chief executive Gordon Campbell said the currency impact on translating overseas profits cost £6m and an estimated £10m was lost on transactions compared to the same period last year. "This was particularly acute in fibres and chemicals where our major manufacturing facilities are located in sterling and dollar areas," he explained.
Operating profits for the fibres and chemicals division fell 7% to £25m on sales down 12% at £388m. At constant exchange rates profits would have been 4% lower, while sales would have been down 5%
Tencel sales continued to be positive at the retail level, with indications that next year's spring and summer season will be substantially ahead of this year. However, the company admitted that fibre sales were lower than the first half of 1996 due to poor denim demand, a weak Japanese consumer market and excessive ordering last year.
Courtaulds said completion of its new UK production plant has been delayed due to construction difficulties and commissioning will not now start until spring 1998. However, it said this should not impair long term plans for Tencel expansion.
Overall group net borrowings increased from £320m at 31 March to £430m at 30 September, with an accompanying increase in gearing from 46% to 59%.

Glyn Raven quoted on Mobile expansion plans (1994)

Here's a link to a snippet quoting Glyn Raven

Courtaulds to expand 'Tencel' capacity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lenzing Group: TENCEL® Celebrates 20th Anniversary (2012)

Here's today's release from Lenzing, and the first to acknowledge the Tencel development was made by Courtaulds.  

Lenzing/Mobile, December 11, 2012. TENCEL® has turned 20. The first large production facility for lyocell fibers was put into operation in Mobile/Alabama (USA) in 1992. Today the Lenzing Group manufactures TENCEL® fibers at three sites located in Austria, Great Britain and the USA. Lenzing celebrated this anniversary by holding a commemorative ceremony and a customer symposium.
20 years ago the TENCEL® plant in Mobile was the first large-scale industrial production site in the world for the new lyocell fibers. The factory was originally built by the British company Courtaulds plc., a former Lenzing competitor. Lenzing also took over this facility within the context of the acquisition of the Tencel Group in the year 2004. In recent years it has been technologically upgraded, and annual production capacity was increased to the current level of about 50,000 tons of TENCEL® fibers. Today Lenzing manufactures TENCEL® fibers at three sites: Heiligenkreuz (Austria) with an annual capacity of 60,000 tons, Grimsby (Great Britain), featuring a capacity of approx. 40,000 tons each year, and the Mobile, Alabama plant. A fourth production plant is currently being constructed in Lenzing (Upper Austria). Total annual capacity will amount to 60,000 tons, and the facility will be the first second-generation TENCEL® plant from a technological perspective.
On the occasion of the special commemorative ceremony, Lenzing CEO Peter Untersperger emphasized the tremendous importance of the TENCEL® technology. “TENCEL® has been the biggest technological step forward in the man-made cellulose fiber industry since the invention of viscose fibers about 100 years ago. The development of the fiber over the last 20 years only marks the beginning of a success story which will continue for many decades to come. TENCEL® ideally combines the need for competitive production costs compared to other fibers with the requirement of ensuring sustainable, environmentally compatible production. TENCEL® is a breakthrough technology, and I am proud that the Lenzing Group is by far the world’s number one provider of TENCEL® fibers.“

The beginnings: a competitive race between giants

The initial phase in the development of lyocell fibers (marketed by Lenzing today exclusively under the brand name TENCEL®) was characterized by a bitter rivalry between the Lenzing Group and Courtaulds. Both companies conducted research in competition with each other to become the first of the two firms to launch promising new fibers on the marketplace. At the production start in Mobile in 1992, Courtaulds had a competitive edge, but Lenzing’s first large-scale lyocell factory in Heiligenkreuz (Burgenland) was already in the pipeline*. It was successfully put into operation in 1997. In 2004, Lenzing finally acquired the Tencel Group and all its production sites.

(* N.B. Lenzing Shareholders voted to go ahead with investment at Heiligenkreuz in 1995 when it was clear Courtaulds Mobile Tencel was a commercial success in fashion apparel . Ed.)

Combining forces

The merger of Tencel and Lenzing led to a bundling of their collective strengths. The two-way know-how exchange and the decision to consolidate research and development on TENCEL® fibers at one site finally led to the sought-after breakthrough on the marketplace for the new generation of fibers. The range of applications was expanded, and the TENCEL® business subsequently developed very dynamically, spreading from the USA to Europe and Asia.

Diverse applications

At the present time TENCEL® fibers are used by the textile industry as well as for nonwovens. The production process is particularly environmentally compatible, and is characterized by the nearly complete recovery of the deployed solvent.
Lenzing is continuously developing new applications in cooperation with customers and partners. The optimal moisture management of TENCEL® fibers makes them attractive for use in home textiles such as mattresses, quilts and bed linen as well sportswear and women’s outerwear. TENCEL® is also integrated into sensitive segments such as cosmetics, hygiene, and medicine, for example in wound dressings and baby wipes. In the technical segment, TENCEL® is used, for example, to strengthen plastics or to manufacture electrotechnical components.

For more information please contact:
Angelika Guldt
Head of Corporate Communications
Phone: +43 (0) 7672 701-2713

Monday, December 10, 2012

Courtaulds pins hopes on Tencel: Asia plant is going ahead (1997)

Tencel sales in Japan had stalled and the delay in the start of the new Grimsby Tencel plant was probably "helpful". However:

  • The South Asia Tencel plant "is going ahead"
  • Another plant "most likely in China": decision in 2003
Courtaulds will maintain heavy investment in its promising Tencel fibres business as other units continue to be hit by negative currency effects. Chief executive Gordon Campbell described potential growth for the product as 'very significant to the company's future although it represented only 4% of turnover last year'.

Campbell confirmed the company is going ahead with an investment of about £150m ($254m) for a 60 000 tonne/year Tencel plant in Indonesia, Singapore or South Korea in spring 1998. He said a further Asian Tencel production site would most likely be built in China but no decisions will be made until the year 2003.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lenzing Lyocell on the Fast Tack (1997)

Here's a comprehensive Nov. 1997 overview of the Lenzing Lyocell development by Marjorie Walker of ICB, quoting Heinrich Stepniczka.
  • Heiligenkruez at 10,000 tpy in the summer, 12,000 tpy now and 15,000 tpy by Xmas.
  • 60,000 tpy plant next in Asia, Lenzing or Heiligenkreuz.
  • Existing investors will have to be convinced pretty quickly of Lenzing Lyocell's success or they will vote with their feet.
  • Industry sources do expect Lenzing Lyocell to be a success

Lenzing's new Lenzing Lyocell fibre is making its commercial debut on world markets. After years of development and patent disputes with Courtaulds, the Sch1.5bn ($120m) 12 000 tonne/year plant at Heiligenkreuz, Upper Austria, came onstream this summer and Lenzing is already pushing ahead with plans for doubling its capacity. There is even talk of a second major facility.
A lot rides on Lenzing Lyocell's success. Lenzing is the world's largest producer of viscose fibre but the global market shrank in 1996 and has shown little growth in 1997. In Europe and the US environmental expenditure and declining viscose

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Courtaulds eyes No 2 Asian Tencel plant (1997)

COURTAULDS may set up a Tencel manufacturing plant in India after completion of intensive market testing.

The move would be its second major investment in Asia. The company will announce the location of its first Asia Pacific Tencel plant later this year. It has drawn up a shortlist for the location of the Asia Pacific plant - South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore.

'As for India, we will first have to see how strong the domestic market is,' said Alan Jones, Courtauld's commercial director for Tencel in Asia Pacific.

Courtaulds has launched a Tencel marketing tie-up with five Indian mills - Arvind, Raymond, Morarjee, Garden Silk and Madura Fabrics. The mills will use Tencel, a 100% natural solvent-spun cellulosic fibre, to manufacture either 100% Tencel fabric or a blend with other fibres.

Jones told ACN that a decision on a Courtaulds Tencel plant in India was far from imminent. 'It will probably be the next century before we come to the conclusion as to whether it is worthwhile producing Tencel at a plant in India,' he said.

Courtaulds has a worldwide Tencel capacity approaching 100 000 tonne/year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cheap Cotton lowers Lenzing expectations but longer term the Cellulose Gap will help (2012)

The latest Tencel News from Lenzing.  There's just a hint of the old Courtaulds "we've got a great long term future if only we can get through the medium term" about this release!

At a Berenberg conference in London, CFO Thomas Winkler presented on behalf of Lenzing. On the company’s strategy, Mr Winkler highlighted the positioning of its fibre products (viscose, Tencel) against cotton and synthetic fibres. The main drivers for the strong demand growth for viscose (in excess of 10%) are megatrends such as population and wealth growth, the latter leading to a substitution of synthetics by organic fibres. In the long run, the “cellulose gap” equity story is very intact, Mr Winkler said.

A Berenberg analyst said that they feel the company is now very frank about communicating that there is a clear dependency of viscose prices to cotton prices (Lenzing’s fibres command a 10-15% premium over cotton). With cotton prices at low levels and Chinese stockpiles very high, pricing is currently weak – a situation that will most likely not change in the very short term. Lenzing will therefore only reach the lower end of its EBITDA guidance this year. In the mid-term, however, cotton dynamics could reverse, as cotton competes for acreage, consumes 27x more water per hectare than corn and there is no drought-resistant seed.

Source: Boerse Express

Courtaulds seeks partner for Far East Tencel project (1997)

Searching for the right site and partner for its planned Tencel production unit in the Far East is taking longer than anticipated for Courtaulds.

Courtaulds is in discussions with a number of companies as it looks for a partner for a planned Far East investment in Tencel lyocell fibre production. The location is yet to be chosen but it is known that two or three sites in the region are in the running.

It could be the end of the year before Courtaulds finalises its plans for the 50000 tonne/year plant, with issues such as financial assistance, political stability and closeness to textile markets being considered.

A decision had been expected by the end of the first quarter this year but, said fibres chief David Wilkinson, narrowing down the possible locations has proved a lengthy process: 'It is a very big step and if we get it wrong, we get it badly wrong.'

The issue of whether to take a partner for the $250m investment is not fully resolved, said Wilkinson, and Courtaulds could go it alone. However, the assistance of a local partner that knows the region's fibre and textile markets would be an advantage, he said.

The Far East plant will add a third production arm to Courtaulds' global strategy for the fibre. It currently has 43 000 tonne/year capacity in Mobile, Alabama, and by the end of this year will have onstream 42 000 tonne/year of capacity in the UK, at Grimsby.

There is 12 000 tonne/year of debottlenecking potential at Mobile, but a decision on when to implement this has not been taken. Courtaulds' aim is to have sales in excess of 150 000 tonne/year by 2005.

Courtaulds is already collaborating with Japanese fibre producer Asahi Chemical in market testing of lyocell filament fibre, which Courtaulds is jointly developing with Akzo Nobel.  Wilkinson said the two European companies should be able to put up a proposal at the end of July for a 5000 tonne/year production plant. It will most likely be built at one of Akzo Nobel's German sites. Filament lyocell ("Newcell") will compete against cuprammonium rayon at the higher end of the textile markets, said Wilkinson.

5th May 1997 [Source: ICB]

Courtaulds and Akzo Nobel cooperate on the development of lyocell filament (1997)

Courtaulds and Akzo Nobel are working together in the development of lyocell (solvent spun) cellulosic filament yarn. A market evaluation and test marketing programme has been conducted with Asahi in Japan over the past two years and it is expected that a final investment decision will be taken by Courtaulds and Akzo Nobel by the end of this year.
The two companies have also agreed to undertake a detailed study for construction of a 5000 tonne/year facility to be located in Europe. Akzo Nobel is producing lyocell filament yarn at its pilot plant in Oberburg, Germany, with Courtaulds contributing process and product know-how derived from the manufacture ofTencel, its branded lyocell staple fibre.
In 1990, Courtaulds opened its $100m Tencel facility adjacent to the rayon plant at Mobile, Alabama, US. It is the only location where this revolutionary new fibre is currently being produced in industrial-scale quantities in the world.
Tencel is biodegradable and can be used for many industrial applications, as well as fine yams and fabrics. The advanced material features many environmental benefits, from the raw material which goes into its manufacture to the process that forms it. This process converts wood pulp harvested in managed forests to fibre by a method which recycles almost 100% of the solvent, virtually eliminating the need for effluent discharges.
This year Courtaulds completed a $134m expansion at the plant, one which doubled its capacity and raised employment to 200.
Tencel demand remains strong, particularly in Europe, but with Japan a major market and all production still in the US, the current weakness of the yen against the dollar is a negative factor on margins, according to Gordon Campbell, chief executive of Courtaulds.
In viscose, Campbell said there is some evidence of recovery in demand, but

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Parties in Tencel patent row to settle out of court (1997)

The Lenzing Filmtruder process patent was summarily dismissed in the USA but now the Appeal Court overturn that ruling.

Fibre manufacturers Lenzing and Courtaulds have begun discussions to resolve their differences without further recourse to the American courts.

Lenzing and Courtaulds are to settle out of court over the Tencel patent row - despite a US court decision in Lenzing's favour. Lenzing fought the action over alleged infringement of a patent for production of what it calls lyocell fibres.

The Federal Court of Appeal in Washington DC reversed an earlier summary decision of the New York court in November 1995, which held the patent invalid for failure to disclose the 'best mode' of the invention. Lenzing claimed infringement of the patent by Courtaulds at its lyocell plant in Mobile, Alabama, and the infringement suit in the New York court is now set to continue.

Lenzing, which produces lyocell under the brand name Lenzing Lyocell, sought damages and an injunction against Courtaulds in the New York district court action. Courtaulds denied infringements and called the patent invalid. Lenzing said the decision accentuated the importance of the Lenzing patent and emphasised its contribution to commercialise the lyocell process.

A Lenzing spokeswoman said negotiations had taken place between Lenzing and Courtaulds. 'We still want to continue discussions, but we must review the court decision,' she said. 'No firm date has been set for a resumption of the New York district court case, but we intend to get the issue resolved.'

David Wilkinson, Courtaulds' director responsible for fibres, said discussion at an advanced stage would enable both companies to get on without the fear of invoking patents against each other. He said Courtaulds and Lenzing companies could then defend actions against third parties if they infringed patent agreements for the manufacture of lyocell.

Wilkinson added: 'I am confident the discussions will produce an amicable solution. I have no reason to believe that Lenzing does not have the same objective.'

Lyocell, a fibre used in clothing, is spun from a solution of cellulose in an organic solvent and water. The Lenzing patent relates to the preparation of the spinning solution.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

“Jobs Through Innovation”: Lenzing Third in the Nationwide Rankings (2012)

The following news from Austria encourages us to print a short version of the history for those who have not followed the Tencel development (or this blog) from the start:
  • The first lyocell fibre (later called Tencel) was spun from an NMMO solution on a lab. scale by Akzo in North America in the late 70's.
  • Akzo balked at scale-up difficulties and costs, but Courtaulds Research (UK) developed an improved version of the process and moved on to a 1000 tpy scale 25 years ago.  The first commercial worldwide sales of Tencel were made from this pilot line at the Courtaulds Grimsby factory.
  • by 1997 Courtaulds capacity for Tencel was being expanded to 85,000 tpy by the construction of their 4th line, while Lenzing were starting their first 10,000 tpy semi-commercial line using the same "Filmtruder" dissolution technique operated by Courtaulds since 1990.
  • Courtaulds developed the US, European and Japanese Tencel markets in both fashion apparel and technical textiles before running into financial difficulties and being bought by Akzo Nobel in 1998.
  • Akzo sold the Courtaulds Fibres business to CVC Partners in 1999.  CVC agreed to buy an 80% stake in Lenzing from the Bank of Austria in 2001.  (EU competition authorities intervened)
  • In 2004  CVC Partners sold Tencel to Lenzing, who have done an excellent "patient management" job to keep the technology alive and expand the market through difficult times.
  • This year Lenzing started building their second commercial scale plant.
Monday, 03. December 2012
Additional award following top spot in Upper Austria
Doris Bures, the Federal Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Reinhold Mitterlehner, the Federal Minister of Economic Affairs, Austrian Chamber of Labor President Herbert Tumpel, Dwora Stein, Managing Director of the Union of Salaried Private Sector Employees, and the two managing directors of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency, Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner, honored the winners of the nationwide competition “Jobs Through Innovation 2012” at a gala award ceremony held in the Museumsquartier in Vienna. Lenzing AG placed third in the national competition thanks to its project featuring the new man-made cellulose fiber “TENCEL®“.
Dieter Eichinger, Head of the Business Unit Textile Fibers, said that “TENCEL® represents a new, innovative fiber generation which Lenzing has been working on for close to 30 years with great success. After reaching the industrial scale production of TENCEL®, our priority is now to continually develop other applications and market them globally. These innovations arise at our research center in Lenzing, which employs 161 people. After winning the award for the province of Upper Austria, we are very pleased that our achievements have also been recognized and honored on a national level.”
Why was Lenzing honored?
The Lenzing Group was able to convince the jury for several reasons on the

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lenzing's Patent on Filmtruder use for Lyocell (1992)

This is the lyocell patent Lenzing claimed Courtaulds infringed in building the US Tencel plant.  They sued Courtaulds in 1993 and the case was summarily dismissed in the USA in 1995.   Courtaulds was awarded costs.  Lenzing later appealed.

The 1995 Judgement appears here.

United States Patent
Zikeli ,   et al.March 10, 1992
**Please see images for: ( Certificate of Correction ) **

Process and arrangement for preparing a solution of cellulose

There is disclosed a process for preparing solutions of cellulose in aqueous tertiary amine oxides from a suspension of cellulose in an aqueous solution of the tertiary amine oxide by supplying heat at a reduced pressure. The suspension is transported over a heating surface, spread in layers or coats, until a homogenous solution of the cellulose has formed, which has a viscosity of between 50 and 15,000 Pas.s. Feeding of the suspension and drawing-off of the homogenous solution are carried out continuously. The solutions are prepared in an indirectly heated evacuatable vessel provided with a stirring device. The vessel is designed as a cylindrical container including a centrically mounted stirring shaft having agitators joined thereto, the radial distance of the agitators from the internal wall of the container being 20 mm at the most. There are provided an intake for the cellulose suspension in the upper part of the container and an outlet for the homogenous collulose solution in its lower end.

Inventors:Zikeli; Stefan (Regau, AT), Wolschner; Bernd (Vocklabruck, AT), Eichinger; Dieter (Vocklabruck, AT), Jurkovic; Raimund (Lenzing, AT), Firgo; Heinrich (Vocklabruck, AT)
Assignee:Lenzing Aktiengesellschaft (Lenzing, AT
Family ID:25597486
Appl. No.:07/742,093
Filed:August 2, 1991

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Akzo/Courtaulds move to make NewCell (1997)

The commercialisation of lyocell (solvent spun) cellulosic filament yarn has taken a step forward with Akzo Nobel and Courtaulds' decision to carry out an engineering study for the construction of a 5000 tonne/year plant in Europe.

According to Fritz Fröhlich, a board member of Akzo Nobel, the location of the plant will depend on final government support. An investment decision will be made by the Akzo Nobel and Courtaulds boards later this year.

The firms decided to proceed with the study following progress in the process development at Akzo Nobel's Obernburg pilot plant in Germany. Akzo Nobel has been producing 100 tonne/year of lyocell filament yarns, called NewCell, at the unit. Courtaulds provided process and product know-how from Tencel, its lyocell staple fibre.

Market test programmes conducted over the past two years have been positive. The Japanese market was studied with Asahi.

Courtaulds produces Tencel lyocell staple fibre in two plants with a combined capacity of 55 000 tonne/year in Alabama, US. It is now building a £120m ($180m) 42 000 tonne/year facility in Grimsby, UK, due onstream in early 1998.