Ground-breaking bio-refinery plant launched in Fife is world’s first

Published: 25 Mar 2015 09:30

THE world’s first manufacturing facility dedicated to the production of a product the Scottish Government says will help establish Scotland as a global leader in bio-refinery has launched today (Wednesday, March 23) in Fife.

The new Cellucomp factory was opened in Glenrothes by Annabelle Ewing MSP, minister for Youth and Women’s Employment, and will be dedicated to the production of ‘Curran’, a material developed from carrot and sugar beet.

It’s the first factory to be opened by Burntisland-based Cellucomp, which has developed Curran from the extraction of nano-cellulose fibres from the waste of root vegetables.

The company was founded in 2005 by doctors David Hepworth and Eric Whale – two material scientists – and, after years of research, is now gearing up for expansion having established that Curran uniquely offers exceptional rheological and mechanical properties for many potential applications including paper and packaging, personal care, home care, concrete, drilling fluids, composites, food and, in particular, paints and coatings.

Curran’s properties include mechanical film enhancement which offers added scrub resistance and less cracking for paints and coatings, as well as thickening capabilities. Both functionalities can be achieved with a very small loading of Curran® into the paint.

The first successful application of Curran® was in composites in the form of an award winning fishing rod called The Reactor® from Sharpes of Aberdeen, a brand CelluComp owned at the time. This application made full use of the unique strength and stiffness of the nano-cellulose based fibres.

Cellucomp CEO Christian Kemp-Griffin said: “This is a landmark day for us at Cellucomp, and we’re delighted that the production of Curran® can now begin on a more commercial scale. There’s a great deal of scientific innovation behind the development of Curran®. Use of the product as an ingredient for paints & coatings not only brings an important green credential but also a uniquely natural strength and durability.

“We are very pleased that Ms Ewing could join us in the opening of our first plant in Europe. Over the last few years the business has benefitted from working with a number of highly skilled young people who came to us through the ScotGrad scheme, and many of whom are now working for us full time. This is an opportunity for her to see, first hand, the impact that of developing a skilled workforce can have on driving economic growth and expansion.”

Ewing said: “I was delighted to be the first person to power up a new plant that will not only bring additional highly skilled jobs and growth to Fife, but which will form an important milestone on Scotland’s journey to become a world class bio-refinery leader. CelluComp has developed a ground-breaking product which not only offers its own unique properties, but which also tackles some of the environmental challenges we face today - that of maximising the use of waste.

“I’ve met with several members of their team during my visit and it’s evident to me that investment in our young people, and in continuing to invest in developing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, can lead to sustainable economic growth and further Scotland’s global role as an innovator.”

Anke Heggie, company growth support director, Scottish Enterprise said: “To ensure the continued growth of the industrial biotechnology and biorefining sectors in Scotland, we need to provide our companies with access to the right support and connections at the right time.

“Scottish Enterprise has worked closely with Cellucomp over the last ten years, providing an integrated package of support including account management, international market development via Scottish Development International, innovation support, funding assistance through the Scottish Investment Bank, and ScotGrad graduate placements. We have also facilitated introductions to the Scottish Industrial Biotechnology Development Group and Chemical Sciences Scotland, the industry leadership group for this sector in Scotland.

"Scottish Enterprise is pleased to be able to support the opening of CelluComp’s new facility and looks forward to continuing to work with the company as it sets out to achieve its ambitious growth plans."

The Glenrothes plant will start production immediately and plans to employ 12 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the bio-refinery industry is already estimated to be worth nearly £200 million to the Scottish economy.

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