Austrian fiber, textile and polymer producer Lenzing AG announced plans Tuesday to build a new $293 million fiber production plant in Mobile, AL to produce a bio-based fiber made from woodchips called TENCEL.
When the plant becomes operational in 2019, the facility will have a production capacity of 90,000 tns. annually, representing the largest Lenzing manufacturing site of TENCEL fibers globally, the company said in a press release.
The facility “will set a new milestone in the history of lyocell fibers,” Lenzing’s statement said. The company selected the site because of existing infrastructure at the Mobile site and “attractive” energy prices.
“This investment represents another major milestone in the implementation of our corporate strategy sCore TEN. It will bring us a big step further to reach our target of 50% revenue from specialty fibers by 2020,” said a statement by Lenzing chief executive officer Sefan Doboczky. “This expansion also underscores our commitment to all our TENCEL fiber customers, who continue to make their products even more sustainable using TENCEL fiber, the world’s most sustainable botanic fiber.”
Manufacturing TENCEL fiber involves converting wood chips into pulp, which is then combined with water and a solvent in a closed-loop extraction process to produce a white cellulosic fiber, according to information on the company’s website. The material can be used in a number of applications including mattresses, sportswear, and personal hygiene products like diapers.
Globally, Lenzing produces about 222,000 tns. of TENCEL fibers per year. The Austrian company recently announced expansion plans for facilities in Great Britain and Austria. Lenzing said the Alabama facility will increase its overall output of TENCEL by 50% when operations commence.
Wrapped in the news of the plans to construct the Mobile factory was the announcement that Lenzing appointed BASF veteran Heiko Arnold as its new chief technology officer – a new management board role that pools key technical, operational, and engineering duties. Arnold will assume responsibility for all technical departments at Lenzing Group.
“We are pleased to welcome Heiko Arnold, a further expert with broad international experience, to Lenzing’s management team,” said Hanno Bästlein, chairman of the Lenzing supervisory board in the release. “Lenzing is on a successful, dynamic growth course with the development and implementation of the new sCore TEN corporate strategy, and that makes an increase in the management board to four persons a reasonable step. His 15 years of experience in Asia, in the realization of major investment projects and in operational excellence, make Arnold a perfect match for the challenges faced by Lenzing.”