Investments are being made at Solvay’s Livorno, Italy-based site to support the launch of the company’s first unit of circular highly dispersible silica (HDS). The HDS product is manufactured using a bio-based sodium silicate derived from rice husk ash, providing a circular solution for the material within a local value chain.
With production scheduled to begin by the end of 2024, Solvay will produce the HDS using renewable energy to enable a 50% reduction in CO2 per ton of silica, making the company’s site Europe’s best-in-class for silica production in terms of CO2 footprint.
Solvay’s existing Zeosil portfolio will gradually be replaced with the new circular HDS, delivering a solution to the tire industry which can enhance the use of sustainable materials while reducing the sector’s overall CO2 footprint.
Solvay claims to be the first to commit to circular HDS production in Europe within a concrete timeframe and it will now focus on building the necessary ecosystem to bring HDS to the international market. During the project, Solvay will work with an array of stakeholders across the entire value chain, including with key partner Continental. By implementing the rice husk ash proprietary process in Europe, the company will be able to ensure consistent product quality by leveling out the variability of agro feedstocks.
“Silica is essential for the high performance of our tires. And with Solvay’s biocircular silica, our tires will at the same time become more sustainable. It reduces the overall carbon footprint and increases the share of renewable materials in our tires,” said Claus Petschick, head of sustainability, Continental Tires. “Rice husk is an agricultural by-product that was not used for tire production until very recently. Soon they will take us one step closer to our goal of 100% sustainable materials in our tires by 2050 at the latest.”
To expand its HDS capacity, Solvay plans to construct a new plant in North America in the next few years to significantly increase its footprint in the country. The facility will be designed for circular raw materials and be aligned with the company’s carbon neutrality roadmap. Additional projects on circular HDS in Asia and South America are also being investigated.
“Building on our constant drive for progress and innovation, the launch of our circular HDS in Europe is just the first step in a longer-term project that will enable us to offer a circular solution to tire manufacturers and other industries across the world, as we continue to reinvent progress with our silica offering,” commented Ilham Kadri, CEO, Solvay.