LONDON (CNI)--Austrian fibres producer Lenzing confirmed on Thursday that it plans to keep all Lyocell fibre production plants running to meet current demand.
The assurance was given after Lenzing's announcement yesterday that it had bought rival producer Tencel for an undisclosed sum from private equity group CVC making it the world’s pre-eminent producer of the fibre.
The deal combines the two major producers of the specialty wood pulp based fibre currently finding use in non-woven applications and in textiles.
Lenzing management board chairman, Thomas Fahnemann, told CNI in an interview that current demand for Lyocell is strong in Asia. Fahnemann’s company developed its Lyocell fibre at the same time as Tencel(then the brand name of the product created by former UK fibres producer Courtaulds).
Lenzing is producing between 25 000 tonne a year and 27 000 tonne a year of Lyocell fibre at its plant at Heiligenkreuz in Austria, he said, as it starts up a second 20 000 tonne a year production line. About 70% of output from Heiligenkreuz is being sold into Asia textile markets, he added.
Lenzing produces Lyocell for textiles and other fibre segments while the Tencel business – which comprises two plants (in Mobile, Alabama in the US and at Grimsby in the UK) with a combined capacity of 80 000 tonne/year and associated technology – makes fibre largely for non-wovens.
There is not a lot of overlap between the two businesses, Fahnemann said, and he is clearly keen to see further technological development from the combined operations.
Lyocell is the first new fibre developed in more than 50 years. Created in the late 1980s, it is described as being still in the early stages of its life cycle and further progress is expected, particularly on the cost of production. The explosion at the Heiligenkreuz plant in November last year (2003) demonstrated that there is still more to be learned about that process.
Fahnemann believes Lenzing has now achieved the critical mass to be competitive in Lyocell and the technical knowhow to further develop the product. Particularly, the company will be addressing cost of production issues, he said.