Promoting a carbon fibre plant in Norrbotten

The plans and intentions of promoting a large carbon fibre plant establishment at Haraholmen in Piteå are ambitious. It will not only result in hundreds of new job opportunities but also to more company establishments and therefore even more job opportunities in the downstream value chains. The effort al-ready has industrial support, not least from car- and wind pow-er manufacturers.

kolfiberUlf Westerberg, Innovation Manager at Piteå Science Park, and Hans Hansson, former CEO at Swerea Sicomp, are two of the peo-ple in the front leading the effort and they are positive about the es-tablishment and all the opportunities it will lead to.

– This project will create at least 200 new jobs, let alone the possi-bilities for new company establishments for further processing of the carbon fiber, which in turn will lead to even more positive perspec-tives, Hans and Ulf explains.

They also point out the current situation and the imbalance between usage and production in Europe.

– Europe stands for 35 percent of the global usage of carbon fibre but only 20 percent is being manufactured here. This kind of estab-lishment would give us the possibility to produce carbon fiber for the European market instead of importing from Asia and US. A carbon fiber plant in Norrbotten is very positive for the expansion and growth of the area.

To await perfect timing
– We started discussing a potential establishment fifteen years ago but the timing hasn’t been right until now, says Hans.
Since the environmental aspects are of higher importance now, among other things the requirements of energy efficiency and car-bon dioxide emissions, the timing is a lot better now.

By 2020 the emissions requirements for cars will be 95 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometer. By 2025 the requirements will be even stricter, 65 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. In practice, it means that the cars must be significantly lighter. And to make them lighter, a material concept is required that consists of high strength steel and carbon fiber composite.

– Today the whole life cycle assessment perspective is of highest importance; manufacturing, use and also recycling. The total CO2-footprint is being considered. This means that lightweight design is required and sustainable materials are needed for manufacturing. A green carbon fibre will be essential in order to reach acceptable lev-els in the LCA-analyze, Ulf explains.

The same goes for wind power, an industry that produces clean en-ergy, but the manufacturing of the wind mills – mostly composed of steel, concrete and glass fibre composites – requires enormous amount of energy and emits large quantities of CO2.
Turbine blades with carbon fibre stiffeners etc. can be longer and more rigid, making them more resilient at off shore installations and more efficient in less breezy conditions. Here too, you want to re-duce the emissions that occur before the wind turbines are in place, to work faster with the ”debt” and deliver green electricity, so also here a greener carbon fiber is of utmost relevance.

– No company wants to use materials with a high CO2-emission, it won’t look good on the environment declaration. If you use carbon fibre with a green profile, compared to the ones manufactured in Asia and USA, you’ll get a much lower CO2-emissions.

Great possibilities in Norrbotten and Piteå
The reason why Norrbotten is a good area for an establishment are several. To produce carbon fiber, it takes a lot of energy and this is not only hydropower-based and green, but also relatively cheap. In addition, there is great competence, especially in composites, and that Haraholmen in Piteå is an industrial site of great potential.

Piteå based Swerea SICOMP is one of Europe’s leading research institutes focused on composite technology. We also have skills when it comes to the processing industry, both paper and steel.
– There is simply a composite tradition in Piteå which started with ABB Composite 50 years ago. Together we can unite and create something great together, means Hans.

At Haraholmen there is a logistic hub for regional industries – rail, sea and land. There is also a ready-to-build site for carbon fiber pro-duction, just waiting to be in use.

But most important – the environmental aspect
The usage of carbon fibre will certainly increase significant in the years to come, not least in the automotive and wind power compa-nies, which are extra sensitive to environmental aspects. Compa-nies like Vattenfall, Volco Car Group, Scania and Saab gives the project full support, which means promising prospects.