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Solvay to produce silica from rice husk ash for tires in Europe, expansion plans in N America

Solvay is investing at its Livorno, Italy site to launch the company’s first unit of circular highly dispersible silica (HDS) made with bio-based sodium silicate derived from rice husk ash (RHA).

Rice husk is an abundantly available agricultural waste. Combustion of rice husk produces RHA, which consists mainly of silica (silicon dioxide, SiO2). Studies have found that pre-treatment of rice husk prior to combustion can deliver purer silica.

Highly Dispersible Silica (HDS) reinforces tires by replacing carbon black in tire treads; it reduces rolling resistance and improves traction on wet surfaces without sacrificing wear. Solvay currently offers a wide range of HDS for sustainable mobility and energy-efficient tires.

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.

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.

—,Claus Petschick, Head of Sustainability at Continental Tires

This new 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. This will make the Livorno site Europe’s best-in-class silica production site in terms of CO2 footprint. Production is expected to start by the end of 2024.

The Group will gradually replace its existing Zeosil HDS portfolio with circular HDS, providing a circular 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 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. Continental is a key partner in this.

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.


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