The Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring Ltd. and Itochu Corporation of Japan have established a joint venture, which is investing approximately 40 million euro in building and operating a test plant, with the aim to demonstrate a new technology for converting paper-grade pulp into textile fibers.
Business Finland, a Finnish governmental funding agency, is participating in financing the demo project with an R&D loan.
The textile fiber demo plant will be located next to Metsä Group’s bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland. Construction of the plant, with an annual capacity of about 500 tons, begins in October 2018, and start-up is scheduled for late 2019. The general engineering partner is Sweco.
Metsä Spring CEO Niklas von Weymarn says, “With the plant and the demonstration project related to it, we aim to prove the technical feasibility of the new textile fiber production technology. Based on the results of the demonstration project, we can then evaluate the technical and economic realities of building a clearly larger plant in Finland in the future. During the demonstration project, which is expected to last two to three years from the start-up of the plant, we will also gather customer feedback related to the new fibers.”
The new technology to be studied and further developed in the demo project is based on direct dissolution using a novel solvent for the pulp dissolution stage. Metsä Group’s wet paper-grade pulp will be used as the raw material. The new technology is estimated to be more environment-friendly than the textile fiber production technologies currently in use. The basis for the new technology was developed in joint research programs, starting in 2009. The main collaborators, in terms of development of the technology, include Aalto University, University of Helsinki, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and TITK from Germany. Metsä Group’s own active development work started in 2012.
The textile fiber demo plant is the first investment of Metsä Spring, established in May 2018. Metsä Spring invests together with partners in new endeavors with the target to identify and develop new business opportunities within the sustainable forest-based bioeconomy and circular economy.