Thursday, January 31, 2013

New non-fibrillating Tencel Variant, A 100, appears at Grimsby (1999)

One of the biggest synthetic fibre manufacturers in the world is Akzo Nobel of the Netherlands. Akzo Nobel plans to split off its fibres business, Acordis, in the second half of 1999. Created as a result of Akzo Nobel's takeover of Courtaulds last year, Acordis has sales of around $12bn and starting operating as a separate business under Akzo Nobel from 1 January 1999. It claims it is the world's largest dedicated fibres production company.
Acordis employs around 19 000 people worldwide and has its headquarters in Derby, UK. 'The Courtaulds and Akzo products are different, but do form a comprehensive range,' Acordis maintains. The main thrust of the integration is in aligning management and organisational styles.
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.
It has been in loss since the onset of the economic crisis in Asia.
'Our proposals are designed to restore Tencel's profitability while retaining the flexibility to increase rapidly as demand rises,' the company says. Central to this is the flexibility of the new Grimsby plant, which is equipped to produce a new Tencel variant, A100. A100 has surface characteristics which open up a much wider range of end uses. Initial market reaction has been extremely positive. The A100 capability can be retrofitted to the Mobile operation as demand increases.
David Wilkinson, Acordis Director responsible for Tencel, comments: 'Tencel was the first new textile fibre for 30 years when it was launched in 1992, and introduced radically new standards of aesthetics. Until the Asian crisis, demand frequently exceeded our ability to supply. This is a temporary setback. We remain convinced that, the current situation notwithstanding, Tencel is a fibre of exceptional market potential

The Original Financial Assumptions - Part 2 (1986)

This continues from Part 1.  Comments later...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Original Financial Assumptions - Part 1 (1986)

The recent posts of analysts views of Tencel and their estimates of costs reminded me to check back to the original documents to see the Courtaulds Research projections made 10 years earlier in 1986.

The differences are, not surprisingly, substantial, but not all due to overoptimism on the part of Courtaulds Research.  More comments later...

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Analysts View of Tencel - Part 3 (1997)

Here's another BZW analysis a few months after Part 1 with a different view of Tencel.
  • "Japanese Demand has slowed recently"
  • Grimsby Tencel start up delayed a few months by strike
(Typo in first line doesnt inspire confidence either!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Analysts View of Tencel - Part 2: SBC Warburg (1996)

This report dated June 96, which first appeared in the "engine room" in January 1997, gives information on the planned expansions, their capital cost, the costs of some raw materials and other costs, and the assumed Tencel selling prices.  The high marketing cost of developing the fashion end uses in the early years is notable.  Three pages are reproduced below:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Analysts View of Tencel - Part 1: BZW (1997)

After the rather gloomy prognosis of our Hotel Byblos Worldwide Fibres Conference, here's a more optimistic note, a few months later, from a key opinion former, Barclays de Zoete Wedd.

Points to note:
  • Growth in Tencel sales was the major factor driving improvement.
  • By 2000, they expect Tencel to be generating sales of £220m and profits of £50m

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Courtaulds Strategy and the Role of Fibres: Part 3 (1997)

From 1997 WORLDWIDE FIBRES CONFERENCE - Hotel Byblos, Malaga, 30/1/1997

Points to note:
  • Courtaulds made a mistake in staying out of Asia.
  • Tencel can't grow fast enough to make a difference.
  • The old fibres have to recover and perform reasonably - or else!

So we have commercial challenges and we have technical challenges. The capital cost of Tencel is too high. We have a geographic challenge coming upon us. We have to go to Asia. We can't leave the next generation of managers in Courtaulds in the same position that our predecessors left us, which was to avoid Asia back in the  1960s. Even then it was evident that textiles were going to be made (there). We can't do that to the next generation. So we have to be in Asia and handle all the cultural challenges that go with it.

Fibres: Tencel has to go from zero turnover in 1992 to €400 million in 2000, almost doubling every two years. At the same time it has to make 25 per cent return on sales. lf it doesn't make that we won't pay back the €600 million capital we will have invested. We can't depend on Tencel to provide the growth that will drive Courtaulds over the next five years. No matter how fast we develop it, it won't make enough impact on the top line, never mind the bottom line, to drive Courtaulds forward in terms of shareholder value.

Speciality Fibres: There are two small businesses. One superb, growing

Monday, January 21, 2013

Courtaulds Strategy and the Role of Fibres: Part 2 (1997)

From 1997 WORLDWIDE FIBRES CONFERENCE - Hotel Byblos, Malaga, 30/1/1997

Points to note:

  • £300m spent on Tencel and another £300m planned.
  • Tencel is 1/10th size of the rest of fibres businesses so the other fibres have to generate the cash.
  • Tencel challenges are at least as great as those of viscose but "be patient: the returns are there".

The easiest way to make the company grow, both in sales and margins, is to
improve the quality of our performance, the quality of products and the service we offer our customers. So we have initiated a programme of work using Gemini Consultants to try to improve the quality of our businesses. I also set a target that in five years' time we can write on the front of our Accounts "Courtaulds is a quality business". lt is about the quality of the product we offer and the service we provide, and how we employ people and treat them. If we get that right we will get the right financial results.

Viscose, acrylic and acetate are our oldest businesses. They have been around from 90-odd years, to 70 to 40 years. We have to be realistic about what can be done in these three businesses. They are old technologies and they are in the wrong geographic area, primarily, to supply the textile industry.

We need for Fibres to create a different approach to selling. We need to step out of the box and develop a new way of doing things. If we get that the title of "mature businesses' won't apply.

Akzo sells Tencel with Acordis to CVC (1999)

Akzo Nobel has welcomed a bid from UK venture capitalists CVC Capital Partners for its beleaguered fibres business Acordis.  CVC, backed by Acordis' management, has offered E825m ($889m) to acquire a majority stake in the fibres company. Akzo has the option to buy 20%.  Acordis chief executive officer Folkert Blaisse said: 'We back CVC's offer 100%. We trust that the transaction will be completed fast, effectively and efficiently.'

Akzo Nobel chairman Cees van Lede said: 'CVC's proposal fits our stated strategy of establishing Acordis as an independent company with a solid foundation.'

Akzo had previously sought to float or demerge Acordis, although Akzo was working on restructuring the business further before this went ahead (ECN 17 May).

Industry watchers said the price for the business was fair. Akzo can now concentrate on its other, more profitable businesses, while CVC could eventually resell Acordis or float it on the Dutch stock markets.  
Mark Sullivan of Chase Manhattan bank, which advised CVC on the deal, said seeing the fibres market cycle through could be tough, but that 'CVC has taken on the challenge'. For Akzo, he said the deal was a 'clean strategic solution'.

Under CVC, Acordis will continue its strategy to build its portfolio of speciality fibres for niche markets to balance slim profits from the cyclical businesses that are undergoing restructuring.

Acordis and Austria's Lenzing have confirmed that the CVC bid does not affect their possible US viscose rayon joint venture, and that discussions continue.

Acordis incorporates the fibres businesses acquired by Akzo from Courtaulds, which have been a drain on Akzo's resources ever since.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Courtaulds Strategy and the Role of Fibres: Part 1 (1997)

From 1997 WORLDWIDE FIBRES CONFERENCE - Hotel Byblos, Malaga, 30/1/1997

Points to note:
  • "Acrylics (1986) generated an enormous amount of cash... and was the reason we could develop Tencel... without that we would probably not have Tencel today"
  • "Viscose (1989-91) poured in  an enormous amount of cash ... was a money printing machine ... it wiped out all the problems of acquiring businesses in the USA." (Ironic this: the new US businesses were bought to replace loss-making Fibres)
ln 1980 Courtaulds recorded an operating profit of break-even and a loss after
extraordinary items of £160m. lt was from that base that Courtaulds started to pull out from a horrendous position. The first part of the 1980s was trying to grind outmargin improvement. The only thing that mattered then was how much cash togenerate. We achieved it. People sold businesses, company names and did anything to hit the cash target. That started to take Courtaulds up. During the mid to second half of the 1980s Courtaulds had a very strong reputation for the quality of its management.

Then we demerged Textiles. The strategy was to drive for growth in businesses that were broadly management intensive rather than capital intensive. Our acquisitions in the US could have been damaging but for Viscose. A major competitor in viscose went out of business in the US. The combination of that and a fashion swing meant that Viscose poured in an enormous amount of cash from 1989 to 1991. To some extent we let that fool us and Viscose was a money printing machine. We were so successful it wiped out all the problems of acquiring businesses in the US.

Azko Nobel signs Acordis sale agreement (1999)

LONDON (CNI)--Dutch group Akzo Nobel said Thursday it has agreed the sale of its Acordis fibres business to a consortium led by CVC Capital partners for Euro825m ($851m).

Venture capital company CVC will have a 64% equity stake, with the Acordis management holding 15%. Akzo Nobel will acquire the remaining 21%.

Acordis, which will retain its existing management under chief executive Folkert Blaisse, also inherits from Akzo Nobel provisions of some Euro225m to meet various obligations including pension fund payments and environmental charges.

Akzo Nobel said Acordis would be a Dutch company and have a two-tier board structure with a supervisory board in which Akzo will have one of the five seats.

Cees van Lede, Akzo Nobel chairman, described completion of the sale negotiations as a major milestone for his group. "Akzo Nobel will enter the next century as a different company - focusing on the dynamics of growing our pharma, coatings and chemicals businesses."

Folkert Blaisse said Acordis will focus on building a solid stand-alone fibres company with high potential for the future.

In August, when the CVC offer was first announced, Blaisse said Acordis planned to achieve a return on sales of at least 8% in the next three to five years by restructuring and focusing on the high growth areas of industrial applications and specialty fibres. In the first quarter this year the return on sales was 1%.

CVC has publicly backed the Acordis management's strategy of growing organically and through add-on acquisitions in core markets. Earlier this year CVC completed the purchase of 75% of Dynoplast, the plastics business of Norway's Dyno Industrier and the acquisition from Shell of a 50% stake in Dutch plastic pipe manufacturer Wavin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Courtaulds Fibres Worldwide Conference Delegates List (1997)

89 delegates attended this conference at the Hotel Byblos, Malaga, Spain, 30/1-1/2/1997 to discuss Fibres strategy for the next 5 years.  Tencel was high on the agenda and sent the most delegates (24). More information from the meeting will be posted shortly.


David Adkins Tencel CFI Alabama, USA
Jose Ambros Acrylics Barcelona, Spain
Sergio Ansaldi Novaceta Milan, ltaly
Egidio Apolloni Novaceta Milan, ltaly
Joaquim Bestit Acrylics Barcelona, Spain
Geoff Blackburn Tencel Asia Hong Kong
Simon Brearley Viscose Europe Grimsby
Eric Chan Tencel Asia Hong Kong
David Christian Rayon Alabama, USA
Josep Colobran Acrylics Barcelona, Spain
Hilda Coulsey Fibres/Chemicals Coventry, UK
John Cross Acrylics Kelheim, Germany
Dick Doidge-Harrison Rayon Alabama, USA
David Duthie CFI Corporate Alabama, USA
John Fagge Acrylics Grimsby, UK
Robert Feil Tencel CFI Alabama, USA
Mike Finlen Tencel CFI Alabama, USA
Ellen Flynn Tencel CFI New York, USA

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Akzo Nobel Offers Premium For Courtaulds (1998)

This is a comprehensive story of the Exodus deal noting the exceptional shareholder value obtained by Gordon Campbell.

Akzo Nobel made an agreed-upon offer of 450 pence ($7.51) per share for Courtaulds on April 20, and analysts do not expect a counter bid.
The offer values Courtaulds at £1.83 billion ($3 billion), about 91 percent of its sales of £2.1 billion in the year until the end of March, and 11 times operating profit of £166 million.
The offer also represents a premium of 66 percent above the share price of 271.5 pence on February 24, when Courtaulds announced plans to split its coatings and sealants and fibers and chemicals operations into two separate entities, while selling off its polymer products business.
The offer is 25 percent above the share price of 361 pence at the end of March, shortly before Akzo Nobel revealed it was discussing a possible takeover with Courtaulds.
Courtaulds' board is recommending the offer to shareholders on the grounds that it is consistent with the strategy behind the company's original demerger plans.
"Our proposal to demerge the component parts of Courtaulds was designed to enhance shareholder value," says Courtaulds CEO Gordon Campbell. "This offer adds further value and certainty for Courtaulds' shareholders. For employees, the creation of stronger businesses in both the coatings and fibers industries can only be in their best interests."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lenzing develops Tencel for Ultra Capacitors (2013)

Here's today's press release from Lenzing.  Readers of this blog will recall that development of the double-layer electrolytic capacitor market (now Ultra capacitors) for Tencel commenced in 1993 in a collaboration between Courtaulds Research and Nippon Kodoshi.  Then the dielectrics used Tencel, now a carbonised version appears to be used in the electrodes as well.  (See also for 1993)
Lenzing AG and NanoCarbons LLC, Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA), will cooperate in the future to develop and explore the use of new activated carbons in electrode technology. This technology is based on a combination of Lenzing’s TENCEL® fibers and the technology provided by NanoCarbons LLC. After extensive research Lenzing constructed a new pilot production facility to take the technology forward.
The jointly developed carbons should deliver optimal performance in the area of energy storage. It is believed that these new carbons will accelerate the development of the already rapid growth in uses of electrical devices such as double layer capacitors (also known as ultra capacitors or super capacitors). These high performance capacitors are being increasingly used in hybrid vehicles as well as with stop-start systems, uninterruptable power supplies and wind turbine blade orientation.
“For Lenzing, the development of new, special applications in the technical segment comprises an important extension of the use of our fibers”, says Peter Untersperger, Chief Executive Officer of the Lenzing Group in commenting on the new partnership. “The strongly growing market for energy storage devices is a promising market niche for us. With our TENCEL® fibers we will certainly witness the development of a series of additional, highly interesting technical applications in the coming years.”
Friedrich Weninger, COO of the Lenzing Group with management responsibility for research and development, adds: “We are continuing to invest in new areas of research to increase the range and reach of our product portfolio, both in-house and through external cooperation. The new carbons optimally complement our existing business with separator materials for the energy storage devices. We strongly believe in the future growth of this market. We are offering our customers a sustainable product with consistent quality to allow the industry to develop further.”
Rud Istvan, CEO of NanoCarbons LLC, comments: “I strongly believe that this development will allow the double layer capacitor market to make a significant advancement. With the combination of Lenzing’s technical understanding and infrastructure and Nanocarbons’ technology, we can expect an acceleration in the market uses and exploitation of double layer capacitors, from new automotive stop-start systems to uninterruptable power supplies. This could be a breakthrough for electrode technology that will reap dividends for the designers of electrical components and the drivers of vehicles alike.”
For more information please contact:
Angelika Guldt
Head of Corporate Communications
Phone: +43 (0) 7672 701-2713

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Akzo prepares to float Acordis: Tencel remains depressed (1999)

An improvement in the performance of its industrial and textile fibres operations plus the contribution from Courtaulds helped Akzo's Acordis fibres business boost operating profits by 52% to Dfl 141m. Acordis, which is being prepared for demerger, increased sales by 21% to Dfl 4.3bn of which Courtaulds accounted for Dfl 1bn. Excluding the Courtaulds related sales, however, revenues declined 6% due to divestments. Volumes and average selling prices were flat on 1997.
The group plans to float Acordis in the second half of the year, but was unable to give more precise information about the timing. If the business is floated at the bottom of the fibre market's cycle, shareholders will be pleased but it will be a poor transaction for Akzo, said van Lede. But if it is sold at the top of the cycle, shareholders will be critical, he said. "Whatever we do the timing will never be right."
Akzo explained that high capacity utilisation, cost reduction and improved productivity boosted industrial fibres earnings. A turnaround in the viscose filament business and an improvement in non-wovens boosted textile fibres. However, the Asian crisis hit results from Aramid Products and the cost of introducing new products meant that Membrana's results were down on 1997.
The Tencel fibre business remained depressed because of overcapacity. 

By: Neil Sinclair 22 February 1999 12:15  [Source: ICIS news]

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Akzo moves US 'Tencel' to UK; 96 jobs cut (1999)

LONDON (CNI)--Dutch group Akzo Nobel announced Tuesday its fibres subsidiary Acordis is moving production of Tencel to the UK from the US with the loss of 96 jobs.

The move comes in response to the Asian economic crises reducing demand and the company trying to boost profitability.

All production of Tencel is being re-located at Acordis' new plant in Grimsby, England. The original US production facility in Mobile, Alabama is to be mothballed. US production of Tencel is to be suspended shortly but the plant is to be maintained in operational condition.

The change in production location to the more efficient plant will also see 62 job losses among support staff, mostly in the UK, said the company.

Folkert Blaisse, chief executive officer of Acordis, said: "Our proposals are designed to restore Tencel's profitability while retaining the flexibility to increase production as demand rises."

Acordis said there is to be a full consultation with employees affected by the strategic plan and with their representatives. It is also to provide counselling support and facilities to seek new employment.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tencel Web Production Concept (1988)

At a time when the Tencel concept was being scaled up to produce basic  staple fibre, future machines which would be capable of extracting higher value from the technology were also being considered.  This 1988 diagram illustrates a possible layout for a machine capable of producing crimped staple fibre, tow and a range of bonded webs and nonwoven fabrics.

The proposal was first made for a viscose fibre in 1977 and involved a machine which would spun-lay tow onto a conveyor for washing, bonding and drying, the resulting dried and bonded web having 3 possible finishing processes.  Fully bonded heavyweight webs could be sold into the absorbent viscose needelfelt market, a category which included both external and internal feminine hygiene - major viscose staple outlets.  Bonded lightweights would become lint-free wipes. Temporarily bonded webs of discrete sinusoilally laid filaments could be pulled back into tow form after drying to give a highly crimped bulky tow which could packed and sold as a high quality tow or be cut to staple.

This "spun-laid" concept appeared to be easier using Tencel technology, where the vertically downward spinning system using large rectangular jets could be arranged to produce a ~3metre wide web on a conveyor-belt for washing.  By 1988 the hydroentanglement bonding system and high capacity through air dryers could provide the web options.  

Geoffrey Owen's Tencel lyocell history extracts (part 4)

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 the author by Akzo Nobel, Lenzing and Courtaulds (amongst others) and is available in full here on the web as a PDF file. It contains excellent sections on Tencel lyocell development history, the fourth extract of which is reproduced below:

When the plant came on stream in 1992, much of the initial demand came, not from the US, but from Japan. The Japanese textile industry, looking for profitable niches in the market to offset the loss of commodity business to imports, found that the fibrillating characteristics of Tencel could be used to produce high-quality fabrics, principally denim, with an unusual peach-like texture, and customer reaction was enthusiastic. With the aid of an Osaka-based consulting firm, Courtaulds organised a club of spinning, weaving and finishing companies, chosen on the basis of their technical and commercial competence and their willingness to invest in the machinery needed to process Tencel efficiently.

Although Tencel was sold in Japan as a premium fibre, its success there suggested that the textile qualities of the new fibre would be more important than had been predicted when the Mobile plant was approved The McKinsey study had forecast that the main demand would be industrial, with apparel acting to some extent as a filler. The change of emphasis was expected to work to Courtaulds’ advantage, since the apparel market offered higher margins and should be quicker to develop than the industrial market; extensive testing would be necessary before Tencel could be used, for example, in medical applications.

Looking further ahead, senior executives in Courtaulds believed that, as the

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Geoffrey Owen's Tencel lyocell history extracts (part 3)

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 the author by Akzo Nobel, Lenzing and Courtaulds (amongst others) and is available in full here on the web as a PDF file. It contains excellent sections on Tencel lyocell development history, the third extract of which is reproduced below:

The first Tencel plant
Meanwhile, Courtaulds had been pushing ahead fast. The pilot plant in Grimsby had worked well, and there was no doubt in the minds of Tencel’s supporters that the next step was to build a full-scale plant, either at Grimsby, next to the existing acrylic fibre plant, or at Mobile, Alabama, which was the site of a Courtaulds rayon factory. The case for going ahead was that Courtaulds had a technical lead in a product that not only had distinctive properties as a fibre but was also the only man-made fibre that could be produced from renewable resources by an environmentally friendly process.

When members of the Group Executive considered the proposal in April, 1990, they had before them a study from McKinsey, the management consultants, which supported the project. According to McKinsey, there would be sufficient demand, initially in industrial rather than textile markets, to absorb the output of the first plant at an acceptable price. Tencel’s high wet strength and absorbency would make it very suitable for wipes and other disposable products. One member of the Executive was doubtful, on the grounds that Tencel was a high-risk project with an uncertain payback. He acknowledged that Tencel was a potentially attractive fibre with some advantages over viscose, but it was not as novel or distinctive as polyester and nylon had been when they were introduced and sales projections were bound to be speculative. Spending on Tencel would absorb cash at a time when Courtaulds was trying to expand in non-fibre industries. In his view alternative strategies for Tencel should be considered, including partnership or licensing.

Despite these objections the majority of the committee took the view that Tencel was too good an opportunity to forgo. Apart from the merits of the new fibre, the project had the attraction of being based on in-house research and linked to Courtaulds’ long-established expertise in cellulosic fibres; it should be less risky, and less difficult to manage, than an acquisition. The initial plan was for the plant to be built at Grimsby, and the company hoped to get a government grant to support this investment. When the application was turned down, attention switched to Mobile. The state of Alabama was keen to attract the project and willing to offer financial support. The proposal was approved by the Board and the ground breaking ceremony at Mobile took place in September 1990. Production was scheduled to start in the summer of 1992, with an initial capacity from two production lines of 18,000 tonnes a year.

(More to come)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Geoffrey Owen's Tencel lyocell history extracts (part 2)

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 the author by Akzo Nobel, Lenzing and Courtaulds (amongst others) and is available in full here on the web as a PDF file.  It contains excellent sections on Tencel lyocell development history, the second extract of which is reproduced below:

Courtaulds and Tencel
Courtaulds was aware of what American Enka had been doing and their researchers saw that the solvent spinning process, if it could be made to work, might have important advantages. In 1979 a research team was set up in Coventry under Pat White, who had earlier worked on carbon fibre, to examine the process in detail; the programme was subsequently called the Genesis project. Although Courtaulds was under financial pressure at that time and several research programmes were cancelled, senior managers could see that the new process might be a way of reinvigorating the cellulosic fibres business (see Appendix 2 for a description of the solvent spinning process.)
The first laboratory-scale production began in 1981, and it was scaled up to a small pilot plant in 1983.  A note to the Board from the research department commented that the process looked extremely promising “in the sense that we believe it should be possible to produce a fibre with properties superior to viscose at lower cost…If we can succeed, this project could confound the conventional wisdom that there will be no new high volume fibre before the end of the century. It offers the possibility of transforming the prospects of our cellulosic fibre business”.

Courtaulds hired American Enka’s former research director, Bill Mathis, as a consultant. He confirmed that Courtaulds had taken a different approach to that taken by Enka and had solved some of the scaling-up problems. Courtaulds subsequently decided not to acquire an American Enka licence; it was regarded as expensive and unnecessary since White and his team were making good progress without it. Yet there were still many technical issues to be resolved.  One was to achieve a high recovery rate for the solvent which was much more expensive than the chemicals used for viscose. Another was to find a stabiliser to prevent the solvent from degrading and discolouring the cellulose. There were also difficulties in developing machinery that could dissolve the cellulose in a reliably continuous way. The published Enka route using extruders proved unsuitable for volume production. Courtaulds found an alternative route, using a Kraus Maffei horizontal mixer, and this was used in the pilot plant. It was later discovered that a more suitable machine was a vertical mixer, known as a filmtruder.

(more to come)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Early Tencel History from "Regenerated Cellulose Fibres"

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

Direct Dissolution in Amine Oxide: Lyocell
Lyocell technology was pioneered in the USA by Eastman Kodak and American Enka, but it was Courtaulds in the UK who persisted with development until a commercially viable fibre process emerged. Furthermore, Courtaulds did it at a time in its history when the very wisdom of continued involvement, not just in cellulosics but in any fibre or textile activity, was being called into question.

As early as the mid 1950's, Courtaulds believed the future of viscose to be so unattractive that it started to divert viscose profits not only into other fibres, but also into totally unrelated businesses.

By the late fifties, despite accounting for 80-90% of Courtaulds earnings, the reality of viscose's decline was becoming apparent. The usual remedies, reducing costs, improving quality, selling more aggressively and internationally were yielding diminishing returns so the Board's reaction was a new strategy involving:
  • Developing new internal sources of profit i.e. utilising the viscose wet-spinning expertise to move into wet-spun acrylic fibres ("Courtelle"), and opening up a vast, and with hind-sight, transient, new market for a coarse and tough viscose in tufted carpets. ("Evlan")
  • Developing new external sources of profit by acquisitions in "related but different" products, in reality British Celanese (Cellulose acetate fibres and related products) and Pinchin Johnson Paints (Later renamed International Paint)
  • Developing greater market power by acquiring key elements of the rest of the fibre value-chain - "Verticalisation" - resulting most notably in the acquisition of the Lancashire Cotton Corporation Ltd and Fine Spinners and Doublers. (representing about 35% of the entire Lancashire cotton industry.)
Of these three, a) was least favoured with funds. Furthermore, little emphasis was placed on modernisation of regenerated cellulose fibre production methods

Early Tencel History from "Regenerated Cellulose Fibres" (part 4)

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

Other Routes
Work on other routes to cellulosic fibres has continued, often driven by a desire to utilize the large capital investment in the xanthate route and hence cost less than a completely new fibre process.

The Finnish viscose producer Kemira Oy Saeteri collaborated with Neste Oy on the development of a carbamate derivative route. This system was based on the original work of Hill and Jacobsen who showed that the reaction between cellulose and urea gave a derivative which was easily dissolved in dilute sodium hydroxide:

Cell-OH + NH2 -CO-NH2 ---> Cell-O-NH2 +NH3

Neste patented an industrial route to a cellulose carbamate pulp which was stable enough to be shipped into rayon plants for dissolution as if it were xanthate. The carbamate solution could be spun into sulphuric acid or sodium carbonate solutions, to give fibres which when completely regenerated had similar properties to viscose rayon. When incompletely regenerated they were sufficiently self-bonding for use in papermaking. The process was said to be cheaper than the viscose route and to have a lower environmental impact. It has not been commercialised, so no confirmation of its potential is yet available.

Chen, working on a small scale at Purdue University, claims that solutions containing 10-15% cellulose in 55-80% aqueous zinc chloride can be spun into alcohol or acetone baths to give fibres with strengths of 1.5 to 2 g/den. However, if these fibres were strain-dried (i.e stretched) and rewetted whilst under strain, strengths of 5.2 g/d were achieved.

Kamide and co-workers at Asahi have been applying the steam explosion treatment to dissolving- pulp to make it dissolve directly in sodium hydroxide. In technical papers,, they claimed a solution of 5% of steam-exploded cellulose in 9.1% NaOH at 4oC being spun into 20% H2SO4 at 5­oC. The apparently poor fibre properties (best results being 1.8 g/d tenacity dry, with 7.3% extension) probably arise because the fibres were syringe extruded at 75 denier/fil. Asahi felt at the time that this would be the ultimate process for large scale production of regenerated cellulose fibres but in reality it’s use appears confined to the production of thickeners.

Chanzy, Peguy and co-workers at the Plant Macromolecules Research Centre (CERMAV-CNRS) in Grenoble studied the cellulose/NMMO system in depth; one paper indicating that further strength increases can be obtained by adding ammonium chloride or calcium chloride to the dope.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lenzing back in the black (1998)

Lenzing has swung back into profit thanks to a good performance from its fibre and non-fibre related businesses.
Pre-tax profits were Sch222.9m ($18.7m) for the first three quarters, comparing favourably with a Sch242.2m loss for this period last year.
Turnover increased to Sch6.4bn in the first nine months of 1998 compared with Sch5.73bn in quarters one-to-three of last year.
Lenzing has warned that international financial turbulence has hit the world's textile fibre market, especially in Europe, where import pressure from Asian textiles is increasing.
Viscose consumption also declined, making market conditions difficult for the company in the US throughout the third quarter.
Cotton and polyester fibre prices are down, especially in Asia, and the company blames changes in fashion trends and a fall-off in Japanese demand for the underperformance of its Lenzing Lyocell fibre.
However, the company's Indonesian associate, South Pacific Viscose, is benefiting from favourable raw material prices, and achieving record production levels.
Despite the Lyocell setbacks, Lenzing forecasts satisfactory performance for the remaining quarter of 1998.

23 November 1998  [Source: ICB]

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Early Tencel History from "Regenerated Cellulose Fibres" (part 2)

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

NMMO emerged as the best of the amine-oxides and a team at American Enka demonstrated its commercial potential in the late '70's. In their laboratories in Enka, North Carolina, Neil Franks and Julianna Varga, developed a way of making a more concentrated, and hence economical, solution of cellulose, by carefully controlling the water content of the system.

In this Figure from USP41926282 the concentrations of water and cellulose where complete dissolution of the cellulose occurs (at 95C), lie between lines B and C. Between lines A and B there can be 95% confidence that the solution would be free from undissolved cellulose fibres, and to the right of Line A, undissolved cellulose fibres are bound to be present. Similarly, between C and D there is a 95% chance that crystals of undissolved NMMO will be present, and such crystals will always be present to the left of line D.

Clarence C. McCorsley III, also at Enka, developed the key elements of several possible commercial processes. In one, cellulose pulp sheets were soaked in NMMO solution, and after mild heat and vacuum treatment to adjust the water content, the ground-up sheet was fed to an extruder from which fibres could be spun. In another, the solution was made in a large mixer prior to casting it as thick film, freezing it solid, and grinding up into chips for later extrusion. In a continuous process, a vented extruder fed directly with the ground-up wood-pulp and NMMO, mixes the ingredients, creates the solution by removing excess water and volatiles through the vent, and feeds the spinning pumps.

Both American Enka and Courtaulds set up pilot plant work in the early eighties with the objectives of developing the fibre spinning and solvent recovery operations. Courtaulds commercialized first and this, and the continuing development of lyocell is dealt with by White , who from the outset of practical work in 1979, led the lyocell development effort at Courtaulds.

(more to come)