Solvay will use rice husks for greener tyre chemicals

Article by Adam Duckett

SOLVAY said it will open a new unit at a chemicals plant in Italy that will halve the carbon footprint of the silica it produces for tyres by using a feedstock of waste rice husks from the food industry.

Production at its Livorno site is expected to begin next year, manufacturing highly-dispersible silica made from sodium silicate derived from rice husk ash. The chemicals major says its new silicate process will use locally produced rice husks, and when coupled with renewable energy integrated at the plant will halve the CO2 produced per ton of silica.

Continental will use Solvay’s bio-circular silica in its tyres. “Silica is essential for the high performance of our tyres,” said Claus Petschick, head of sustainability at Continental. He said that using an agricultural byproduct in this way will contribute to the company reaching its target of producing 100% sustainable tyres by 2050.

Highly-dispersible silica can reinforce tyres by replacing carbon black used in treads. Solvay says that unlike conventional silica, it lowers the rolling resistance of tyres. This helps increase the fuel efficiency and range of vehicles. Concern among consumers about the low range of electric vehicles is a key barrier to their wider use.

Solvay said it will gradually replace its existing highly-dispersible silica with the new rice husk-derived version. It says it plans to build a new production facility for it in the US, and is investigating further projects in Asia and South America.

Article by Adam Duckett

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