Sunday, September 30, 2012

Helen Storey Tencel: The Cashmere of Denim (1992)

Shame about the attribution of fibre development to Courtaulds Textiles, but this mention of Tencel is from the height of the peachskin fashion period.

Helen Storey, who skipped the catwalk for a season, is in touch with her customers. Her nod to the Seventies comprised tongue-in-chic patchwork stripe and paisley high-buttoned jackets, ankle-length waistcoats, and slim, long skirts. Button-front long skirts in an antique flower print contrasted amusingly with 'feminist dresses' with bras sewn into the garments.

The most covetable pieces, however, are her leather and denim classics, including black leather waistcoats decorated with cuff-links and super-soft denim shirts. The latter use Tencel, a new fibre developed by Courtaulds Textiles which has already been dubbed the 'cashmere of denim'.

Roger Tredre, The Independent, 15th Oct 1992

The ads below were the first to appear in a Tencel garments search and are - what a coincidence - from Ron Hill, an ex Courtaulds (Droylesden?) man and famous marathon runner.  His company now uses Tencel in sportswear.  Click on the photos to read more.

Lenzing Lyocell Patent (1995)

In looking through the Courtaulds and Lenzing patents on lyocell, this is the first I've seen which covers a process for making fibres as opposed to different parts of a process.  It is also the first to mention the Buss Filmtruder as the thin-film evaporator, this being the evaporator installed at Mobile Tencel in 1992 and operating commercially when this was filed.

United States Patent
ZikeliFebruary 18, 1997

Process of and apparatus for making celluose products

A plant for the production of cellulose films and fibers includes at least one pulping device for producing a first suspension of pulp in an aqueous amine-oxide solution and a first thin-film treatment apparatus for receiving the first pulp suspension and producing a concentrated pulp suspension. The plant also includes a second thin-film treatment apparatus wherein the concentrated pulp suspension is transformed into a mouldable solution of cellulose and a spinning device connected to the second thin-film treatment apparatus, wherein the mouldable cellulose solution is processed into cellulose films and fibers. A process for the production of cellulose films and fibers according to an amine-oxide process includes the steps of suspending pulp in an aqueous amine-oxide solution to produce a first suspension, concentrating the first suspension, producing a mouldable cellulose solution by heating, and processing the solution to form cellulose films and fibers.

Inventors:Zikeli; Stefan (Regau, AT)
Assignee:Lenzing Aktiengesellschaft (AT
Appl. No.:08/465,321
Filed:June 5, 1995

100 kg of humid pulp of the "Lenzing BKZ EM 9 feucht" type containing 50% of water was suspended for about 5 minutes in a pulper of the company Cellwood Grubbens AB (vertical pulper) in 600 kg of a commercially available solution of N-methylmorpholine-N-

Friday, September 28, 2012


This unusual abstract contains another mention of Akzo's original invention of the lyocell fibre process and mentions the fact that Courtaulds operated lyocell under licence.   Lenzing had licenced the technology first in 1987 and Courtaulds followed, for reasons unclear in view of the ~5 year lead they had in the technology, in 1990.  Akzo had abandoned staple but were developing a filament version of the technology called "Newcell".  Courtaulds and Akzo collaborated in the further development of "Newcell" and maybe the licencing was part of this collaborative deal.

Courtaulds (USA and UK) is using N-methyl morpholine oxide (NMMO) as a solvent in the production of its cellulose-based Tencel staple fibre. This process is environmentally-friendly and creates virtually no pollution. This method was initially patented by Akzo and Courtaulds is using it under license. There have been some technical problems in applying this method on a commercial scale, but these have been largely overcome. Fabrics produced using NMMO have applications in clothing.

Anon., High Performance Text., Aug. 1994, pp 3-5

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Susan Gilchrist of The Times was the first to report on SL2 expansion in 1993 and this announcement of SL3 is similary confusing.  (If the original text surfaces it will be posted. Unfortunately I don't have access to The Times archives at present.)

Chemical group Courtaulds have opened a £90m plant at Grimsby to produce the company's revolutionary Tencel fibre. This will create 120 jobs. Pioneered by Courtaulds, Tencel is used in clothing and industrial applications, and the plant is due to start production early in 1997. Eastern Germany was the front-runner in the choice site for the plant, but was narrowly beaten by Grimsby when the Department of Trade and Industry agreed to provide a £10m grant towards funding the plant. The Group expects Tencel to produce annual sales of £450m by the end of the 1990s. Profit and loss figures are listed.

Gilchrist S., The Times, no. 65,120, 24 Nov. 1994, p. 27

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sipko on the merger of Fibres with Hoechst and Tencel in US (1993)

Sipko Huismans, Courtaulds' chief executive, observed: 'If you want to be in Eastern Europe, you have to start by positioning yourself in Germany,' as he announced the group's decision to merge its European fibre interests with those of Hoechst. Courtaulds is scarcely about to storm the Urals in pursuit of profits, but Mr Huisman's point about the importance of geographical positioning is well made.
Size brings not only savings of scale but makes it easier to exploit new products. One of the main reasons Courtaulds concentrated on the US rather than Europe when it came to releasing Tencel, its latest fibre, was that its stronger base in the US made for a safer launch-pad.
So Courtaulds' neat alliance with its German competitor, in which it will clearly be the dominant force, strengthens its Continental hand considerably, catapulting it into near pole position - aptly enough for a company that sponsors Ayrton Senna's Marlboro McLaren racing team.

Courtaulds closing 6 coatings plants, expanding Tencel (1993)

COURTAULDS, the chemicals and fibres group, yesterday surprised the City with a plan to shut down six manufacturing plants with a loss of 650 jobs in Europe.

Courtaulds said the closures would cost about £52m this year and were prompted by difficult trading conditions and falling exports to the Far East, which was becoming increasingly self-sufficient.

As a result it was accelerating its plant closures in Europe and would also integrate the aerospace sealants business with its coatings arm. The changes will reduce the number of coatings factories by a third to 12. Most of the job losses will be in Continental Europe although about 100 could be lost in Britain.

The group is expanding in other sectors. It is building a second factory to produce Tencel, a synthetic fibre, at a cost of £90m, to meet growing demand in the US and Japan. The plant will more than double production capacity. Separately, it is also setting up four plants in the Far East.



Courtaulds is to install a second production line for Tencel solvent spun cellulosic staple fibre at its plant in Alabama, USA, at a cost of $134m and may build a production facility in either the UK or Germany. The current line has capacity of 18,000tpy and this will be increased to 43,000tpy when started up in August 1995. Tencel is the most commercially successful of the lyocell fibres currently available and is most used in women's clothing, denim jeans and chambray shirts. It is produced by dissolving woodpulp in solvent, which is then recovered, and has high wet strength and excellent fibrillation possibilities when subjected to high energy water jets. This fibrillation capability means that spunlaced constructions may be formed by bonding with other fibres, which then have high strength and good filtration properties.

Anon., Nonwovens Rep. Int., no. 273, Dec. 1993, p. 3

The mention of the possibility that an EU Tencel plant could be built in Germany might have been to encourage the UK government to provide a grant for Grimsby.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


An early mention of the Genesis project to leaven the viscose plant closure announcement. ("per day" is clearly a typo!)

This article confirms the closure by Courtaulds plc of its Greenfield viscose staple and Holywell viscose tow plants and the policy of reduction of viscose rayon staple production capacity, at present estimated at 90,000 tons per day and planned to fall to 60,000 tons after the Greenfield closure. Production of viscose tow is to be transferred to the company's Grimsby plant, while short run output of speciality viscose fibres is likely to be produced from the 15,000 ton/year capacity Calais plant. The closures do not mean a lessening Courtaulds interest in viscose, and development work continues on the new solvent spinning process for rayon, which uses direct dissolution.

Anon., Nonwovens Rep. Int., no. 170, June 1985, pp 6-7

The Greenfield viscose plant was the largest in the world in the 1960's producing 100,000 tonnes/year of fibre, about half of which ("No 1 Unit") was going into the new tufted carpets. No 1 Unit was closed in the 70's when bulked continuous filament nylon took over the cheap carpet market in the UK.  A few years before this 1985 announcement the batch process for viscose production in No 2 Unit (50,000 tpa capacity) had been replaced with a continuous viscose process at great expense.  

The decision on whether to close this remaining modern and flexible Greenfield factory or the older and inflexible Grimsby plant of similar size could not have been easy.  At that time Grimsby was the lowest cost producer of commodity rayon in Europe while Greenfield had, prior to modernisation, developed such specialities as Modal and Polynosic (Vincel 64 and 28), HS Fibro, Viloft, SI Fibre, Sarille crimped, Evlan carpet fibre, and Tow.  

("Moving the specialities to Calais" was not that practical.  Calais would need investment, could not match Greenfield economy of scale, but it was probably more complicated to close down.  In the event it only survived until 1991.)

Monday, September 24, 2012


Many cellulose research centres throughout the world are now actively enaged in developing and studying new cellulose solvent systems and in spinning quality rayon fibres. This article compares the use, advantages and limitations of amine oxides, liquid ammonia and ammonium salt, lithium chloride with dimethylacetamide (DMAc) as three of the most recently described new solvent systems. The amine oxide and lithium chloride/DMAc systems are both cost-competitive with viscose on a greenfield installation basis. It is considered that additional work is needed to find an even more economical system with further reduced recovery and recycling costs. There is now little doubt that any further rayon production will not involve the viscose process and that some form of recyclable solvent system will be employed.

Turbak A F,. Tappi J., vol. 67, no. 1, Jan. 1984, pp 94-96

Al Turbak was not alone in thinking that new viscose plants would never again be built.  The rayon market was shrinking and viscose plants were closing at this time.  30 years later it was evident that viscose technology was preferred to solvent spun (lyocell) technology by the then leading exponent of both - Lenzing.

It is interesting to see that Al felt something more economical than NMMO would be needed for success.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


This news first emerged in a May 93 article.  I also mentioned confused customers in an earlier post which covered the sale of the SAICCOR pulp plant (getting out of commodity businesses like fibres and textiles) to fund buying into the adhesives and aerospace and to increase focus on higher value businesses.  

Here, Courtaulds appear to be strengthening the fibres businesses again, but only in Europe.

Courtaulds and Hoechst have completed the agreement to merge their European viscose and acrylic fibre operations. The new joint venture in which Courtaulds will have a majority shareholding, is called Courtaulds European Fibres. Courtaulds' Tencel and US viscose businesses and Hoechst's other fibre operations are not included in the agreement. The joint venture will be Europe's second largest fibre producer, with 30% of total viscose and 25% of total acrylic staple fibre capacity. The agreement covers operating facilities in Spain, Germany and the UK's Courtaulds Fibres Ltd. The combined annual turnover of these operations is some £360m.

 Anon., Text. Mon., May 1994, p.2


By 1993 fibrillation was firmly established as the unique selling point for Tencel in apparel thanks to the Japanese development of enzyme treatment which dissolved the outer "cuticle" of the fibre and allowed the microfibre structure to be raised in finishing.  The resulting peach-skin texture was highly fashionable and the demand for Tencel led to the new Mobile plant rapidly reaching capacity,

Courtaulds' new cellulosic fibre Tencel exhibits properties superior to those of existing man-made cellulosics and is made by an environmentally compatible solvent spinning process. Of highly crystalline composition Tencel shows high dry and wet strength and has a high modulus. The concept of Tencel is completely different from that of viscose fibres, reflecting the innovative employment of enzymes to change the character of fabrics. The fibrillating character of the fibre can be exploited to create different aesthetics. Indigo dyeing represents just one example of the creation of a totally new fabric type based on Tencel's unique properties.

Cole D., Paper presented at 32nd International Man-Made Fibres Congress held at Dorubirn, Austria, 22-24 Sept. 1993, no. 62, 9pp [Vienna, Austria: Osterreichisches Chemiefaser-Institut, 1993]

The full paper is available here

Saturday, September 22, 2012


A rare mention of the Akzo invention of lyocell fibre and an early mention of Lenzing licencing the Akzo technology presumably to accelerate their commercialisation of the fibre.  (Lenzing's acquired the BASF viscose plant - formerly Akzo - in Lowland Tennessee, which they modernised at a cost of ~$90m.)

Moririn Co. Ltd of Japan has acquired exclusive rights to import solvent spun cellulosic fibre from Lenzing AG into Japan. The fibre competes with Tencel fibres from Courtaulds and produces no pollution during manufacture, as solvents used may be recovered completely after extrusion. It is suitable for use where wet strength is important (e.g. medical applications), for battery separators and pre-moistened wipes. It has excellent dyeing capabilities. It was developed under licence from Akzo Fibers BV of Holland, holder of the basic patent, and will be launched in Japan in 1994. The fibre is profiled and has micro-crimps, which improve elasticity and smoothness when woven. Moririn also acquired exclusive import rights for high wet modulus cellulosic fibre.

Anon., Nonwovens Mark., vol. 8, no. 12, 4 June 1993, p. 8


Courtaulds's Tencel fibre will be promoted in Europe via a joint venture formed by the merging of Courtauld's viscose and acrylic fibre operations with those of the German chemicals group, Hoechst. Courtaulds will have a £238m share of the £369m combined sales of the operation. Success in the Japanese market has brought Tencel into profit. The material looks like denim but feels like silk. Despite being developed in the UK, it is manufactured in Alabama, USA. Courtauld's profits for the year ending March 1993 were up from £186.3m to £192.7m. The merger is subject to the approval of the European Commission but will put Courtaulds into a leading position in Europe if it goes through.

Sivell G., The Times,  no. 64,655, 27 May 1993, p. 27 

(News to me!  I had no idea Tencel was part of the logic for acquiring Kelheim.  However several other sentences don't ring true so maybe its a cub reporter - or abstractor - at work.)


This paper looks at the development of Courtaulds Fibres' solvent spun cellulosic fibre Tencel. Tencel is the first commercially available cellulosic in the new lyocell classification. The first Tencel plant has been in operation in the US since 1992 supplying Tencel fibre to the major markets of the US, Europe and Japan. A major property of Tencel is its high modulus both in the wet and dry state which is determined by the fibrillar structure of the fibre. The strength of Tencel allows for effective blending with other fibres and leads to  high fabric stability. By selecting specific processing and finishing conditions, a large variety of different features such as handle, yarn regularity and fluidity can be imparted to the fabric.

James J.,  Paper presented at Microfibres - the State of the Art and their Future held at Ghent, Belgium, 19-20 Oct. 1993, 6 pp 

Friday, September 21, 2012


This paper considers how a broad range of fibres behave in hydroentanglement. It is based upon results from a new pilot line at Courtaulds Research in the UK which uses the Perfojet hydroentanglement system. The fibres studied were cotton, polyester, rayon and Courtaulds new solvent spun cellulosic fibre Tencel. The experimental procedures of the study and the trial results indicating fibre performance in hydroentanglement are detailed. The influence of fibre type, length, cross-section and fineness are discussed. The hydroentanglement efficiency of all the cellulosic fibres was good. Tencel fibre gave good wet and dry fabric properties in comparison with the other cellulosic fibres studied. Polyester fibres tended to be more difficult to entangle, resulting in bulky, less well consolidated fabrics but with good wet strength.

Bertram D., INDA J. Nonwovens Res., vol. 5, no. 2, Spring 1993, pp 34-41 

Thursday, September 20, 2012


US synthetic fibre production reached a peak in 1988-89 and then declined with the current recession. Cellulosic production slumped between 1981-91 in the face of competition from synthetic fibres. Courtaulds' new Tencel rayon plant will be onstream later in 1992, but BASF are leaving the rayon business. Polyester production remained slow between 1981-91; there was a moderate increase in nylon production levels, while olefin production more than doubled. Of the 2,971m lb of fibre consumed for industrial production in 1990, 1,300m lb was synthetic yarn, and most of the rest synthetic staple. The main markets for synthetic staple are fibrefill, stuffing and flock, and for synthetic yarn the largest application is in tyres and also increasingly in medical uses. Statistics of US fibre production between 1981-91 are presented. 

Anon., Tech. Text. Mark., no. 10, July 1992, pp 95-99

The BASF Lowland rayon plant mentioned here was eventually bought by Lenzing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


This is the first announcement of SL2, the Mobile plant expansion.  Clearly some aspects of the release failed to get across.  The fact that SL1 made a profit in its first year thanks to Japanese marketing, fashion and "shaping in acid baths" - whatever that was - is notable though.  I guess the "twice as much" referred to fabric not fibre costs.  If the original article surfaces it will be posted.

A new plant costing $134m manufacturing Tencel is to be built by Courtaulds in Alabama USA. Tencel costs twice as much than its rivals to produce but is proving popular within Japan and amongst certain fashion houses. It is very strong and can be shaped by treatments like acid baths; it is proving so popular that it made a profit in its first year of commercial sales. This new installation will increase Courtauld's production of Tencel from 18,000 to 43,000tpy, with another site planned in Europe in 1994.

Gilchrist S., The Times, no. 64,084, 18 Nov. 1993, p. 30

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Gray, Pennicott Pulp-Dust Patent (1993)

United States Patent5,370,322
Gray ,   et al.December 6, 1994

Filtering particulate cellulosic-based material

A method is provided for filtering shredded cellulose-based material, for example to enable the formation of a mixture containing cellulose dispersed in a solvent for cellulose such as amine oxide. The shredding operation creates both fine particles of cellulosic material ("pulp dust") and large particles of cellulosic material. The shredded cellulosic material is passed through a separator to separate the pulp dust from the large particles of cellulosic material and the pulp dust is subsequently recovered in a filtering process.

Inventors:Gray; Gary E. G. (Westwood Heath, GB), Pennicott; Philip (Poynton, GB)
Assignee:Courtaulds Fibres (Holdings) Limited (London, GB2
Appl. No.:08/067,427
Filed:May 24, 1993
An object of the present invention is to return or recycle pulp dust, created during shredding and comminuting of cellulosic material, to the larger comminuted particles or flakes of pulp of cellulosic material produced during shredding.
In practice we have found that in order to produce high quality cellulose mixtures having a relatively high solids contents, it is desirable for cellulosic material, e.g. from rolls or sheets of wood pulp or wood pulp flock, to be shredded into relatively large flakes or particles, e.g. from 1 to 20 cm.sup.2, with the cellulosic material being compressed as little as possible at its cut edges. However we have found that typically, in the process of shredding and comminuting the cellulosic sheet material, a significant amount, e.g. up to about 2% by weight, of the cellulosic sheet material is converted into pulp dust which is conventionally lost to the process. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012


According to producer Courtaulds Fibers Inc., USA, its new man-made cellulosic fibre Tencel can be spun into yarns as strong as polyester and has a greater wet tenacity than cotton. It is easily blended and can withstand severe finishing processes. Its present output of 20,000tpy limits its availability to already established customers. The fibre is aimed at the high fashion apparel sector without any aspirations of going mass market. Tencel is manufactured by an environmentally acceptable solvent spinning process. Its properties include good moisture absorbency, comfort, lustre, excellent colouration characteristics and biodegradability.

Thornton A., Text. Mon., Feb. 1993, pp 42-45

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Coventry Tencel Pilot Line Photo: Jim Gannon in Action (1997?)

Here's a photo from a 35mm slide taken in the Coventry pilot plant.  The man in the white suit has been confirmed as Jim Gannon and the year is thought to be 1997.  Maybe if the photographer or Jim is online he could confirm this.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Rayon market in 1986. Not an obvious investment choice.

The following cutting is the 1986 view of the global market for cellulosic fibres, probably a combination of viscose staple and filament, as presented in the Tencel scale-up justification. Decline was seen as inevitable, not only because of the polluting nature of the viscose process as highlighted here, but also because synthetics based on cheap oil were encroaching into the absorbent and hygiene products markets: a rayon "fortress".  Polyester/cotton blends were pre-eminent in commodity textiles and the case for the higher value, stronger cellulosics such as Modal and Polynosic rayons was diminishing. (polyester in the blend provided strength more cheaply)

20 years on, the outlook had changed dramatically with cellulosics capacity approaching double the capacity of 1986.  However only ~5% of the new capacity was based on the new pollution-free process.  The viscose processes had proved a cheaper and more attractive investment than lyocell and furthermore the lyocell technology was controlled by Lenzing.

The '86 cutting follows:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

First use of the tencel word? (1986)

This cutting from the Sept 1986 S25 justification document mentions a new generic name being proposed to the International Bureau Of Standardization Of Man-Made Fibres.  I guess this was tencel.  (Comments from those involved would be welcome).  

Between BISFA considering tencel and Courtaulds later adopting Tencel as the brand, two or three years elapsed and lyocell was chosen as the generic because tencel had become too associated with the Courtaulds fibre.
(FIC = Federal Trade Commission?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

David Cole's Tencel Processing Summary (1987)

Here's an early view of the Tencel processing issues from David Cole dated 2/10/1987.  Early concerns about fibrillation  in knits, good results from Courtelle blends and good prospects in air-jet spinning.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wykes, Quigley Patent (1993)

United States Patent5,526,840
Wykes ,   et al.June 18, 1996

Emergency dump tank for congealable materials 

A dump tank for receiving congealable material vented from a chemical process, the dump tank having two access doors covering two access ports, both doors being openable for cleaning purposes so that congealable material vented into the tank can be pushed out of one access port from the other port.

Inventors:Wykes; Katharine A. (Wellesbourne, GB), Quigley; Michael C. (Meriden, GB)
Assignee:Courtaulds Fibres (Holdings) Limited (London, GB2
Appl. No.:08/066,999
Filed:May 24, 1993
By the present invention there is provided an emergency dump tank for the retention of a congealable material, said tank having defining walls and at least one entry line for said material and a vapour vent line, said vent line being connected to a vapour exit port located in the upper region of said dump tank and having a vent exit open to the atmosphere, a seal to prevent the atmosphere entering said tank via said vapour vent line during non-emergency rest conditions of said tank, said seal being openable under the action of pressure in said dump tank so as to permit said vapour exit to be in gaseous communication with said surrounding atmosphere, an inert atmosphere being maintained in said tank in use, there being at least two openable access ports in said walls so as to permit congealable material in said tank to be removed from said tank by opening both of said access ports so that material can be pushed out of one of said ports via the other of said ports.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


The loss made by Lenzing AG in 1992 remained within bounds. Turnover in the previous year was ASch657m, down ASch80m on 1990. Although costs have since then been more carefully controlled, turnover is likely to fall to ASch600-650m in 1993. Price measures and currency changes are causing difficulties. Neusiedler Papierfabrik is converting and marketing 100% recycling paper produced by Lenzing under the brandname Nautilus. Worldwide, Lenzing is the largest producer of viscose fibre with mills in Austria, Indonesia and the USA. Investments are going ahead in Brazil. Decisions on proceeding with the production of a new kind of high quality fibre using the Lyocell technology have yet to be reached. 

 Bauer V, 
Pap. Osterreich, no. 6, 1993, pp 24-25

The Gray, Jack Pumping Patent (1993)

Pub. No.:  WO/1994/028216  International Application No.:  PCT/GB1994/001105
Publication Date:08.12.1994International Filing Date:20.05.1994
Chapter 2 Demand Filed:  25.11.1994
D01D 1/02 (2006.01), D01F 2/00 (2006.01)
Applicants:COURTAULDS FIBRES (HOLDINGS) LIMITED [GB/GB]; 50 George Street, London W1A 2BB (GB)
Inventors:GRAY, Gary, Edward, George; (GB).
JACK, Iain, Richard; (GB)
Agent:NEWBY, Martin, John; J.Y. & G.W. Johnson, Furnival House, 14-18 High Holborn, London WC1V 6DE (GB).
NEWBY, John, Ross; J.Y. & G.W. Johnson, Furnival House, 14-18 High Holborn, London WC1V 6DE (GB)
Priority Data:
Abstract:front page image
(EN)A method of conveying a relatively viscous, cellulose containing mixture, such as a premix comprising cellulose dispersed in a solution of amine oxide and water, with the use of a reciprocating piston pump, e.g. a so-called concrete pump.

Cellulose containing mixtures are well known in different fields of application. In the wood processing and paper making industries there is a need to convey fiber suspensions of pulp having a relatively high consistency (i.e. percentage by weight of dry cellulose material in solution). In other industries, such as the textile industry, there is the need to convey cellulose containing solution to a shaping station where the solution is adapted to be shaped and subsequently regenerated into a cellulosic product, such as a fiber or filament or cellulosic rod, tubing, plate or film.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


As part of its aim to become a 'more focussed' growth company Courtaulds plc has signed unconditional agreements for the sale of its dissolving pulp interests, which include its interests in Saiccor (Pty) Ltd, South Africa, and Speciality Pulp Trading Ltd and supporting companies, Hong Kong, to a South African consortium represented by Sappi Ltd for £207 million. Sappi is also to purchase the 50% Courtaulds holding in unbleached kraft pulp producer Usutu Pulp Co. Ltd, subject to approval by the Swaziland government. Sappi estimates that the acquisitions will raise annual sales by 83% to 2.4 billion rand.

 Anon., Wall St. J., vol. VI, no. 117, 18 July 1988, p. 4

The cash realised was used to fund the purchase Product Research and Chemicals Corporation in the USA. It was part of the new strategy of reducing dependence on cyclical commodity businesses such as fibres in favour of the "stickies" - high-value polymers for paints and adhesives - and heralded a series of US acquisitions.  (Distancing Courtaulds from the "apartheid" troubles in South Africa were part of the reasoning at that time.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

All the Glitterati came out for Tencel's debut (1992)

Womens Wear Daily, June 24th 1992:  The Tencel Launch 

Pictures of Gordon Campbell and Bob Feil with Alberto Zanre, David Duthie with Byron Lars and Alan Jones with Zandra Rhodes follow...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mike Perry recalls Pat White, Buffer tanks and Jets. (circa 1984)

I was the engineer responsible for the construction of the pilot plants built in the ASF Lab. I remember working with Pat White the major driving force on the project. Without Pat I’m sure that Tencel would have remained a laboratory curiosity. I think we started off with a mutual distrust of each other but as our working relationship continued this grew into respect. I admired his abilities very much and his willingness to experiment..

The two things which pleased me most that I designed was the buffer tank and the beam spinning jet.

The buffer tank solved the problem of maintaining a supply of dope to the spinning jet pump at constant pressure with a variable flow coming into it. It also had a system of first in – last out to minimise stagnant volumes of dope within the tank.

With the spinning jet design I realised that the relatively new process of electron beam welding could be used for constructing jets with a rectangular shape. The cleanness and precision of the process meant that the jet plates could be perforated before welding into the body of the holder. A small jet was made first that would fit the standard round holder to try out the principle and check the distortion of the jet plate when subjected to the high pressure when in use. From the data obtained the dimensions of the beam jet with multiple rectangular jet plates  could be worked out. The hole layout and form was done by others. I remember that the jet hole had to be parabolic in section so there was no sudden change in acceleration of the jet stream which would cause the formation of droplets. I used the formula for the design of pressure vessel flanges for the closure of the beam jet. This gave a rather bulky and heavy form. When CEL took over the design for the Grimsby plant they reduced the size of bolts and flange thickness on their design. It leaked under pressure. I’m ashamed to say I felt a little smug! This design of spinning jet was patented.

Dimensions of jet from my notebook probably done at a meeting to discuss requirements,

I hope this diatribe gives you some more background to the Tencel story although perhaps not worthy of a blog.



Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Courtaulds and Lenzing are developing new processing systems to circumvent the environmental drawbacks of the traditional viscose process. Courtaulds' Tencel fibre is to be produced commercially at a new plant being built in Alabama, USA. Lenzing's NMMO solvent-spinning process has reached the pilot plant stage. 

Although the use of viscose rayon fell in percentage terms in the 1980s, industry's increased output means that as much viscose rayon is used now as in the late 1970s. The three main West European suppliers are Lenzing, Courtaulds and Kemira Fibres with Hoechst AG, Svenska Rayon and Sniace of Spain also in production. Kemira Fibres and Lenzing are both marketing chlorine-free viscose rayon fibres which have been welcomed by nonwovens manufacturers. 

Anon: Nonwovens Rep. Int., no. 2151, Feb. 1992, pp 11-12
N.B. 2012: Viscose began a revival at the turn of the century and more than a million tonnes/year of new capacity were added between Courtaulds construction of their last Grimsby Tencel Line (SL3 - 1998) and the construction of the new 60,000 tonner in Lenzing.  
Furthermore an extra 1 million tonnes per year of dissolving pulp capacity started just in the final quarter of 2011 and another 400,000 tonnes per year started in the first quarter of this year. A further million tonnes per year of new viscose pulp capacity will start up in 2013, half of this coming from the largest producer, Sappi - i.e. from what used to be the SAICCOR division of Courtaulds, which used a uniquely economical pulping process developed in Courtaulds Research in Coventry.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Great New British Fibre, Tencel: A rattling good yarn from a tree (1994)

This is a piece written for The Independent by John Emsley - a regular writer on cellulosics - who first mentioned Tencel in the "Plant a tree for Chemistry" article for New Scientist in 1987.  He appears to have spoken to David Giachardi, Gordon Campbell, and Pat White.  The last sentence is particularly prescient!

The first artificial fibre, rayon, celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Courtaulds, the chemical company that was built on its success, has launched a new version of this old polymer - and fashion-conscious Japanese are paying pounds 300 for jackets and jeans made from it. The new fibre is Tencel and it was developed by chemists at the company's research labs in Coventry. Courtaulds is now wondering where to build a pounds 90m plant to supply the European market. Britain is a possible location.
According to the Courtaulds director Dr David Giachardi: 'Tencel is the first new fibre to be launched in 30 years. It is very different from the older forms of rayon, and has a luxurious feel, yet can be used to make tough-wearing clothes.' Marks & Spencer has already testmarketed garments made from Tencel
and found demand quickly exceeded supply.

Monday, September 3, 2012


This seems to be the first announcement of the actual start up of Mobile SL1...

Courtaulds Tencel cellulosic pulp mill in Axis (Alabama, USA) is now operational. It has a capacity of 20,000tpy, and will be supplying the US and South eastern Asia. The fibre can be used in clothing and industrial fabrics. Courtaulds has been operating a 1,500tpy Tencel pilot plant in Grimsby (UK) for the past few years.

 Anon., PPI This Week, vol. 7, no. 29, 3-7 Aug. 1992, p. 4

...while this is the same news a few months later.

Courtaulds plc, UK, is the first company to offer a commercial fibre based on the solvent spinning process. The cellulosic staple Tencel is based on renewable cellulose raw materials and, as its manufacturing process produces virtually no effluent, also finds approval from the environmentally concerned. £100m has been invested in the development of the fibre which has now gone into commercial production at the company's site in Mobile, USA, at an initial annual rate of 20,000 tonnes. Tencel is said to be stronger than rayon and is easy to process and dye.

Anon., High Performance Text., Jan. 1993, pp 1-2

It's probably worth adding that the first commercial production of "Tencel" was in the UK on the Grimsby S25 plant, which, while only ~1500 tonnes/year maximum output, fed the first commercial end-uses in fashion apparel in Japan.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Urwin, Jack Feedstock patent (1993)

Pub. No.:  WO/1994/028234  International Application No.:  PCT/GB1994/001103
Publication Date:08.12.1994International Filing Date:20.05.1994
Chapter 2 Demand Filed:  25.11.1994
D21B 1/06 (2006.01)
Applicants:COURTAULDS FIBRES (HOLDINGS) LIMITED [GB/GB]; 50 George Street, London W1A 2BB (GB)
Inventors:URWIN, Philip, John; (GB).
JACK, Iain, Richard; (GB)
Agent:NEWBY, John, Ross; J.Y. & G.W. Johnson, Furnival House, 14-18 High Holborn, London WC1V 6DE (GB)
Priority Data:
Abstract:front page image
(EN)A method of making feedstock from material supplied in rolls of flexible sheet material which comprises the steps of creating a pluri-layer web of 'n' different layers of sheet material, each layer being selected with regard to some known parameter property of the sheet material whereby the pluri-layer web has an aggregate value of the selected parameter which lies within a chosen range of values of said parameter property. Conveniently the feedstock is created by disintegrating the pluri-layer web to create a mass of comminuted pieces of sheet material.

In the production of cellulosic fibres it is known to use as raw material wood pulp wound in stock rolls of sheet material, to break up the sheet material in a mechanical pulp mill and to convey the broken pieces of sheet material from the mill to a subsequent processing station. The subsequent processing can be critically dependent on the aggregate properties of the mass of broken pieces. This invention, in its different aspects, relates to a novel way of feeding individual layers of sheet material as a pluri-layer web of raw material capable, on comminution in the mill, of producing a mass of broken pieces of the required aggregate properties.
In the case of stock rolls of sheet-formed wood pulp, suppliers grade the sheet-formed material on a roll, inter alia, on the basis of the viscosity of a liquid product produced in a pre-determined manner from the wood pulp and supply the roll to the end user with a viscosity rating. The end user can then select from the range of stock rolls available those having viscosity ratings which he wishes to use for a particular feedstock material.
In accordance with this invention, prior to creating the feedstock material from a plurality of different stock rolls of selected viscosity rating, the sheet materials from a number of stock rolls are drawn together to create a pluri-layer web which is fed as such to a pulp mill for comminution to create the required feedstock material .

The Gray, Jack Comminuting patent (1993)

Pub. No.:  WO/1994/028233  International Application No.:  PCT/GB1994/001098
Publication Date:08.12.1994International Filing Date:20.05.1994
Chapter 2 Demand Filed:  25.11.1994
D01F 2/00 (2006.01), D21B 1/06 (2006.01)
Applicants:COURTAULDS FIBRES (HOLDINGS) LIMITED [GB/GB]; 50 George Street, London W1A 2BB (GB)
Inventors:GRAY, Gary, Edward, George; (GB).
JACK, Iain, Richard; (GB)
Agent:NEWBY, John, Ross; J.Y. & G.W. Johnson, Furnival House, 14-18 High Holborn, London WC1V 6DE (GB)
Priority Data:
Abstract:front page image
(EN)Wood pulp sheeting used as feedstock in a cellulosic fibre production plant is comminuted by hooking laminated platelets of wood pulp from a pluri-layer web of such sheeting and agitating the platelets in a fan generating a conveying gas stream to delaminate the platelets and individually separate them into torn pieces of wood pulp sheeting.

Iain Jack: Tencel Pilot Plant Design (1979)

The process and mechanical design for the original pilot plant was carried out by myself and Mike Perry respectively. I have many memories of the money-no object approach at the time. Particularly trying to modify an old demin water plant with Pete Laity to form the first solvent purification plant, disinterring the world's oldest Z-blade mixer for premix production, and the very "hands on" approach to pulp shredding (sheets torn up during lab tea breaks) and premix feeding (snowballs drop into an airlock by Ruth). Also went to Switzerland with Pat to carry out the first continuous dope making trial at List (but that's a whole other story!)