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Sunliquid plant to close

Clariant has decided to close its Sunliquid bioethanol plant in Podari, Romania. This followed a review that concluded that the economics of the plant could not justify the additional capital expenditure needed to continue the ramp-up.

The company will also downsize the related activities of the Biofuels & Derivatives business line at three sits in Germany. The required capabilities to maintain the technology and to fulfil existing contractual obligations will be kept.

Clariant expects to incur costs of about CHF 60–90 million, and about CHF 110 million more at EBIT level, including a non-cash impairment to the current asset value of the plant and other remaining assets. In all, it expects a cash impact of around CHF 110–140 million in 2024.

The plant was completed in October 2021, with the aim of producing about 50,000 tonnes/year of “almost carbon-neutral” cellulosic ethanol from 250,000 tonnes/year of agricultural residues sourced in the vicinity of Podari. Most was targeted for fuel blending, but Clariant also saw opportunities in biobased chemicals and sustainable aviation fuel.

Production began in Q2 2022 but the plant failed to achieve its targeted yields and other operational parameters on an industrial scale. As a result, Clariant took an impairment of about CHF 225 million in December 2022. Clariant first developed Sunliquid in 2006 and implemented it in a pre-commercial plant in 2012, but at first went down the licensing route rather than build facilities across the world. To date, five technology licences have been sold in Europe and China.

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