New group to develop European carbon precursor capacity

 European Precursor GmbH (EPG, Kelheim, Germany), a joint venture between SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) and Lenzing Group (Lenzing, Austria), announced on July 17 that the Bavarian regional government intends to sponsor development of a "high-tech" carbon fiber precursor material with a grant of €6 million ($8.95

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 European Precursor GmbH (EPG, Kelheim, Germany), a joint venture between SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) and Lenzing Group (Lenzing, Austria), announced on July 17 that the Bavarian regional government intends to sponsor development of a "high-tech" carbon fiber precursor material with a grant of €6 million ($8.95 million USD). The grant is being offered under Germany's Bavaria FIT program for the promotion of research, innovation and technology, and has not yet been formally approved.

The funds will be used to construct and operate a pilot plant and further research facilities at the EPG Kelheim site. The goal of the project is to develop a carbon fiber precursor for high-performance applications in the aerospace industry and the defense sector. According to Dave Hoyland, managing director of Lenzing Plastics GmbH, the precursor will be based on polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and all planned capacity will be used by SGL Group. None will be offered on the open market, notes Hoyland.

European Precursor GmbH was founded late in 2006 to give SGL Group access to a supply of carbon fiber precursor exclusively from a European source. The parties have jointly invested around €20 million ($29.8 million USD) in an initial production facility for a standard-grade precursor, based on PAN fibers, for industrial applications, particularly for use in the wind energy sector. The company says there are medium-term plans to invest up to €50 million ($74.6 million USD) to expand that capacity.

SGL Group has already announced plans to invest €300 million ($447.7 million USD) to increase its own carbon fiber capacity to 12,000 metric tonnes (26.46 million lb) annually by 2012. This includes the construction of a new production site in Germany. At the beginning of 2009, SGL Group will have annual capacity of approximately 6,000 metric tonnes (13.23 million lb) from sites in Evanston, Wyo., and Inverness, Scotland, U.K.