Solvay (Brussels, Belgium) announced today that it is investing in a new production line at its silica plant in Livorno, Italy to produce highly dispersible silica (HDS) using sodium silicate derived from rice hull ash. Production is expected to begin by the end of 2024.
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. This will make the Livorno site Europe’s best in class silica production site in terms of CO2 footprint.
Solvay plans to gradually replace its existing portfolio of Zeosil highly dispersible silica for the tire industry with circular HDS, which the company says will help tiremakers reduce their CO2 footprints and reach sustainability goals. In addition to the tire industry, the new silica also has applications in the personal care and food/feed industries. Solvay is the first silica producer to commit to the production of RHA-based silica in Europe, though Evonik announced last September that it will add an RHA-based silica unit at a plant in Thailand in 2024.
Solvay also announced plans to build a new HDS plant in North America over the coming years, but did not provide details on this project. The new facility will be designed for circular raw materials and be aligned with the company’s carbon neutrality roadmap, according to Solvay. The company is also investigating projects on circular HDS in Asia and South America.