In the Fibers and Pulp divisions, energy and other raw materials are significant factors influencing the Lenzing Group’s financial position and performance.
With its biorefinery concept at its Lenzing, Paskov and Indianópolis sites, Lenzing is one of the pioneers of fiber and pulp production that is as self-sufficient in energy as possible, and is continuously working to enhance energy efficiency at its other production sites.
Lenzing is preparing itself as optimally as possible for a situation of long-term higher energy prices and acute energy shortages. In the year under review, intensive efforts were made to replenish energy stocks. Lenzing is a company with an international footprint and is consequently partly able to offset certain local challenges globally, albeit at higher cost. The current cost and supply situation has the greatest impact on the Central European sites, especially the Heiligenkreuz site (Austria), where work is currently underway on a sustainable energy concept.
In Europe, energy prices in 2022 continued to rise significantly from the previous year’s already historic price level. Price trends in Europe particularly reflect the gas shortage caused by Russia, which led the gas price on the spot market to rsie by 168 percent year-on-year to an average of EUR 123.4 per MWh amid extreme volatility in some cases. Preparations for the winter characterized injection activities in the summer of 2022 and caused the gas price to rise at times to as high as EUR 236 per MWh on a monthly average.
Electricity prices trended similarly to gas prices, partly because summer renewables output was weaker than in previous years. The price increase for electricity amounted to 145 percent year-on-year.
The gas shortage in Europe led to high imports of liquefied gas, which in turn had to be replaced by coal elsewhere. As a consequence, the price of coal also increased by 139 percent year-on-year.
Prices for carbon certificates and crude oil rose by 52 percent and 40 percent respectively year-on-year.
The Lenzing Group’s procurement strategy for the main cost components, electricity and gas, is based largely on procurement via the spot market. Price increases on global energy markets consequently also led to a significant increase in the company’s energy costs in 2022.
The energy plants at the Lenzing site operated predominantly in normal mode during the reporting period. In October, Lenzing opened the largest open-space photovoltaic system in the state of Upper Austria on an area of 55,000 m2. In addition, several rooftop systems were installed. The total output of the PV systems amounts to more than 7 MWp. Lenzing also signed an electricity supply contract with green power producer Enery and Energie Steiermark to finance a photovoltaic system in the Deutschlandsberg district. Once commissioned, the electricity generated will be harnessed to supply the fiber and pulp plant at the Lenzing site from the fourth quarter of 2023. The system’s output will amount to 5.5 MWp. With the continuous expansion of renewable energies, Lenzing is making itself less dependent on global energy markets and is continuing to reduce its carbon emissions in line with its strategic targets.
The power plants in Paskov were also running in normal operation. Surplus energy was fed into the public power grid.
Based on a lower price level and with significantly reduced price volatility, North American energy prices followed the international trend. At the Mobile site (USA), prices increased by 53 percent (natural gas) and by 20 percent (electricity) compared with the previous year.
The plants in Purwakarta (Indonesia) were operated with high availability and were further optimized. The price of coal increased by 50 percent year-on-year, with the price falling by 9 percent in the second half of the year compared with the first half. The grid electricity price in the year under review was 14 percent higher on average than in the previous year. Lenzing has been sourcing green electricity from renewable sources at its Indonesian site since July of last year.
Steam costs at the Nanjing site (China) followed the rising coal price and were 25 percent above the previous year’s level. The grid electricity price was 27 percent higher. The switchover in energy production from coal to natural gas, which is intended to reduce carbon emissions, was successfully progressed further in 2022.
In the first half of 2022, the lyocell plant at the Prachinburi site (Thailand) was commissioned. Electricity and steam prices have since been at a similar level to those at the Nanjing site. The new site in Thailand will be operated on a carbon-neutral basis.
Other raw materials
The sharp rise in energy prices due the pandemic and the Ukraine war also led to supply shortages and significant price increases on global commodity markets.
Caustic soda is used in the production of dissolving wood pulp and is also an important primary product for the production of viscose and modal fibers. It arises as a byproduct from chlorine production. Prices for caustic soda increased several times over during the reporting year and reached a new record level worldwide. The reason for this is a stable high level of demand coupled with supply shortages due high energy prices and diminishing demand for chlorine.
Sulfur is an important starting material for the production of carbon disulfide and sulfuric acid. In turn, both raw materials are used in the viscose process. Sulfur prices rose significantly in the first half of 2022 and also reached new record levels. This was mainly due to higher demand and lower production volumes due to the pandemic – with temporary negative effects on market availability. In the second half of 2022, sulfur demand decreased significantly and prices subsequently stabilized.