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Solvay launches bio-based silica in Europe, with expansion plans in North America

Solvay’s new bio-based highly dispersible silica (HDS) should increase the use of sustainable raw material and reduce the CO2 footprint in the tire industry.

January 30, 2023 - Solvay is investing at its Livorno site, in Italy, to launch the company’s first unit of bio-based highly dispersible silica (HDS), made with sodium silicate derived from rice husk ash. This new breakthrough silicate process provides a circular solution as it gives a second life to rice husk in a local value chain. Coupled with renewable energy integration at the plant, it will allow Solvay to achieve a 50% reduction in CO2 per ton of silica, the company claims. This will make the Livorno site Europe’s best in class silica production site in terms of CO2 footprint, Solvay says. Production is expected to start by the end of 2024.

The Group will gradually replace its existing Zeosil portfolio with bio-based HDS, providing a bio-based solution for tires that will contribute both to increasing the use of sustainable raw materials and reducing the tire industry’s CO2 footprint. This new generation of precipitated silica will also address the needs of the home & personal care and the feed & food industries.

Solvay says it is the first company to commit to bio-based HDS production at a European site within a concrete timeframe and is now focused on building the necessary ecosystem to bring it to market. This involves working with stakeholders across the entire value chain, and Continental is a key partner in this journey. Through the implementation of this competitive rice husk ash (RHA) proprietary process in Europe, the company is able to ensure consistent product quality by leveling out variability of agro feedstocks.

“Silica is essential for the high performance of our tires. And with Solvay’s bio-circular 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 at Continental Tires. He added: “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 percent sustainable materials in our tires by 2050 at the latest".

Solvay also has plans to build a new plant in North America over the coming years to expand its HDS capacity, which will significantly increase the Group’s footprint in the region. This new facility will be designed for bio-based raw materials and be aligned with the company’s carbon neutrality roadmap. The Group is also investigating projects on circular HDS in Asia and South America.

“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”, said Ilham Kadri, Solvay CEO.

Source: Solvay