Process innovations drive efficiency and sustainability

Process innovations focus on improvements to pulp and fiber production processes. Lenzing is constantly working on resource efficiency, occupational safety, process stability and quality. Ongoing developments in pulp production aim to enhance the biorefinery concept, thereby optimizing wood consumption. Another issue is the reduction of sulfur emissions through technological improvements and aftertreatment systems. These measures allow effective cleaning of the exhaust gases and compliance with (and surpassing) the emission regulations.

The foundation for sustainable innovations is the use of highly sophisticated production processes for pulp (including biorefinery products) and fibers (viscose, modal and lyocell). The lyocell technology platform has already been expanded to include the production of additional materials, namely filament and direct-spun web. A number of new innovations have been developed in recent years that have not only significantly improved the lyocell process in terms of efficiency and quality but also reduce energy and process chemical consumption, thereby improving the already sustainable lyocell process overall.

Although Lenzing’s headquarter is situated in Central Europe, the group operates multiple production sites all over the world. Driven by European legislation on one hand and by customer demand for higher standards related to environmental impact and product sustainability on the other, Lenzing continued its efforts in 2023 to meet European standards, not only at its European production sites but also at overseas locations.

Indeed, a major achievement in 2023 was the implementation of the technical concept and the production startup of LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded viscose fibers at Lenzing’s site in Purwakarta (Indonesia).

Clean technology investments in the Lenzing Group

EUR 100 million plant modernization in Indonesia

Lenzing products made in Purwakarta were awarded the EU Ecolabel for the first time in 2023. The site has been the focus of a major modernization campaign. During the reporting year, construction was finished on two important upgrades at the site.

A new carbon disulfide adsorption plant is a big step towards reaching the Group’s “Air emissions” target. The plant is fully operational and successfully lowered sulfur emissions to air. Data of the first months of operation even show a strong positive impact on the wider specific air emissions parameter on a Group level.

The upgraded wastewater treatment plant is commissioning at the end of this reporting year and is expected to reduce site COD emissions substantially and to be an important lever to improve the overall performance of the Lenzing Group once operational in early 2024.

While the site previously complied with local Indonesian regulations, it now additionally applies the state-of-the-art European environmental standards for waste gas treatment technology and the release of sulfur emissions into the air. Referencing to the EU BAT document, the LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibers produced at the site received the EU Ecolabel certification. Instead of producing standard viscose fibers only, the site is now capable of producing specialty LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded viscose fibers, which is Lenzing’s promise to the customers for a strongly reduced environmental product footprint and improved product properties.

At the core of the project on site was the combination of a waste gas system improvement program, which lead to optimized utilization of the existing waste gas treatment facilities as well as the installation of a new carbon disulfide adsorption plant for sulfur recovery, in order to dramatically increase the on-site waste gas treatment capacities. Using state of the art technology, the on-site recovery concept is now capable of treating all the waste gases emerging from the fiber production plant, before releasing them into the environment.

Other technological developments and improvements include a smell testing procedure (incl. new testing methods), which was developed based on root cause analysis, was implemented to support the product development initiative “No smell fiber”.

On the more basic development side, Lenzing is currently focused on technologies to remove water from different process streams more efficiently that the standard evaporation technologies, which are very energy-intensive. These technologies may again significantly help to further reduce energy consumption and therefore the carbon footprint of fibers.

In addition, projects are ongoing to further reduce water and process chemical consumption. These activities are accompanied and supported by simulation and modeling. In the near future, Lenzing will significantly enhance its textile recycling activities – a very challenging task that not only includes the production of recycling pulp but also has to deal with the processability of recycling pulp in different fiber production processes. Success requires a holistic approach from pulp to fiber production to final applications in the textile and nonwovens.

A current focus is boosting biorefinery integration at Lenzing’s pulp sites and therefore on increasing the usage of the raw material wood. Several projects related to pulp production deal with the closure of loops (e.g. selective sulfur dioxide adsorption, increased caustic soda recovery) and the reduction of wastewater (e.g. sulfate in pulp and viscose fiber production). Increasing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are other topics of growing importance.

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