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Evonik starts up new gas separation membrane production plant in Austria

Evonik starts up new gas separation membrane production plant in Austria
Evonik's proprietary SEPURAN Green membranes are produced at its site in Schörfling, Austria. The base material, a high-performance hollow-fibre polymer that is highly resistant to pressure and temperature, is produced in neighboring Lenzing.

Germany-headed global specialty chemicals major Evonik Industries AG has announced that its Austria-based subsidiary, Evonik Fibres GmbH has announced that it has started up a new hollow fibre spinning plant for the production of gas separation membranes at its Austrian site in Schörfling am Attersee.

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The new production capacity enables the company to meet the ongoing strong demand for “SEPURAN” membranes in biogas, nitrogen, hydrogen, and natural gas applications.

First announced in September 2021, Evonik has invested a “low double-digit” EUR million amount in the new plant and created around 30 new jobs in Schörfling am Attersee.

The growth path of the membranes business clearly follows the group’s new sustainability strategy, said Lauren Kjeldsen, Head of the Smart Materials Division at Evonik.

Last May, Evonik announced plans to invest EUR 3 billion by 2030 in Next Generation Solutions, products with superior sustainability benefits. The company’s goal is to increase sales of Next Generation Solutions from the current 37 percent to more than 50 percent by 2030.

According to Evonik, the rapid increase in demand for Next Generation Solutions offers above-average growth potential for the company.

With our innovations, we support our customers in making their own products more sustainable and improving their own climate footprint. Our membrane technology for efficient gas separation is a living example of how Next Generation Solutions from Evonik contribute to sustainable added value in close cooperation with all market players, Lauren Kjeldsen said.

Driving the sustainable gas industry

In the new production plant, a high-performance polymer is processed into fine hollow fibres in several process steps. They are at the heart of Evonik’s SEPURAN membrane technology.

The specialty chemicals company draws on its many years of expertise in polymer chemistry and adjusts key membrane properties already at the development stage of the base material—a high-performance polymer—to produce particularly selective and robust membranes that can withstand extreme pressures and temperatures.

The global gas market has confidence in our membrane technology. With the capacity expansion in Schörfling, we are sending an important signal to our customers and partners of Evonik’s commitment to helping them accelerate the energy transition towards a sustainable gas economy. We believe the energy mix of the future will be biogas, green hydrogen, and further synthesis products. That’s why we are already working to expand our product portfolio and production capacities for this transformational market growth said Dr Goetz Baumgarten, Head of the Membranes Innovation Growth Field at Evonik.

Production plant powered by renewables

Evonik already relies entirely on renewable energies for membrane production in Schörfling am Attersee.

The SEPURAN Green membrane cartridge consists of several thousand hollow fibres bundled in a stainless steel vessel. The ends are embedded in resin. The membrane cartridge is contained in a closed housing unit (photo courtesy Evonik Fibres).

Green electricity from wind, water, and biomass has been a key energy source for this production facility for years.

Since the beginning of 2022, the specialty chemicals company has also been meeting 100 percent of its gas requirements with biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) from regional production.

By switching to an environmentally friendly energy supply, Evonik is reducing its direct annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Austria by around 4 000 tonnes.

From startup to tech leader within a decade

Evonik bundles its membrane activities into one of its six innovation growth fields. Within a decade since the startup, the company has become a global technology leader for gas separation membranes.

According to the company, the SEPURAN hollow-fibre membranes are extremely efficient for separating gases such as methane (CH4), nitrogen (N2), and hydrogen (H2) from gas mixtures.

The advantages of Evonik’s membrane technology include a more precise separation of the gases and higher productivity. The “SEPURAN N2” membranes for efficient nitrogen generation are used, for example, for inerting airplane fuel tanks.

The “SEPURAN Noble” membranes extract the hydrogen transported through natural gas pipelines from the methane/hydrogen (CH4/H2) gas mixture at specific points at the H2 gas withdrawal points.

The “SEPURAN NG” membranes enable efficient processing of natural gas from sources with high CO2 concentration while “SEPURAN Green” membranes enable efficient biogas upgrading to biomethane (RNG) from organic and circular sources.

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