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EPG starts high-tech carbon fibre precursor development
Jul '08
European Precursor GmbH (EPG) in Kelheim, a joint venture between SGL Group and Lenzing Group, will receive a grant totaling €6 million for the development of a high-tech carbon-fiber precursor under the "Bavaria FIT" program for the promotion of research, innovation and technology.

The funds will be used to operate pilot plant and further research facilities at the Kelheim site that the company will construct. The target of the project is to develop a carbon-fiber precursor for high-performance applications in the aerospace industry and the defense sector. The precursor as polymer base material is essential for manufacturing of high quality carbon fibers and carbon fiber based composite materials.

The SGL Group is currently the only European integrated manufacturer of carbon fibers for industrial applications, particularly for wind energy, automotive, construction and sport & leisure industries. These market segments cover around 80 % of the global carbon fiber demands and the aerospace and defense industries represent approx. 20 %.

Thanks to their unique properties, combining low weight and stiffness, carbon fibers are in ever greater demand as substitutes for traditional materials due to the rising raw material and energy costs and the necessity to reduce CO2 emissions. Particularly high standards are placed on carbon fibers used in structural components in the aerospace and defense industries in terms of quality and processing characteristics. This is why respective production stages from base polymer to the raw material, to carbon fiber production, and the final composite products have to be in alignment.

European Precursor GmbH (EPG), based in Kelheim (Bavaria, near Regensburg), was founded at the end of 2006 as a production joint venture between SGL Group and Lenzing Group. The purpose of the company is to develop and supply carbon-fiber precursor exclusively for SGL Group from European production.

Since establishment of the joint venture, both parties have jointly invested around €20 million in an initial production facility for a standard grade precursor based on polyacrylic nitrite (PAN) fibers for industrial applications, particularly for use in the wind energy sector. This ensures SGL Group's long-term supply of raw materials for the carbon fibers production for this application. There are medium-term plans to invest up to €50 million to further capacity expansion.

SGL Group is planning to invest a total of around €300 million in the fast-growing carbon fiber market in order to increase its own capacity up to 12,000 tonnes p.a. by the year 2012. This includes the construction of a new production site in Germany. At the beginning of 2009, SGL Group will have capacity of approx. 6,000 tonnes p.a. at its sites in Evanston (Wyoming/USA) and Inverness (Scotland). In particular, SGL is targeted to further integrate and expand its carbon fiber value chain via composite materials.

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