Belgian chemical firm Solvay says it is investing at its Livorno site, in Italy, to launch the company’s first unit of circular highly dispersible silica (HDS), made with bio-based 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 tonne of silica. This will make the Livorno site Europe’s best in class silica production site in terms of CO2 footprint, it adds. Production is expected to start by the end of 2024.
The group will gradually replace its existing Zeosil portfolio with circular HDS, providing a circular solution for tyres that will contribute both to increasing the use of sustainable raw materials and reducing the tyre 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 also says it is the first company to commit to circular 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.
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 circular 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.