Scion's technology purchased by leading European wood acetylation company

5 September 2006

Technology developed at Crown Research Institute Scion in Rotorua has been purchased by Titan Wood Limited, a UK based company that leads the field in the commercial production of acetylated wood.

Titan Wood, a wholly owned subsidiary of UK environmental science and technology company, Accsys Technologies PLC, specialises in the development of new wood technologies.

The company is on track to begin commercial production of its branded acetylated wood, Accoya™, later this year.

Titan Wood has purchased Scion’s Acetylation Technology for an undisclosed sum.

The technology will initially be tested in the company’s large scale pilot plant in Arnhem in the Netherlands over the coming months with the aim of adopting it for use in Titan Wood’s new full scale facility, also in Arnhem.

The exclusive agreement between Scion and Titan Wood cements a relationship that has been built over the past two years and it includes an aligned research and development programme which Scion will deliver through Ensis, its unincorporated joint venture with CSIRO in Australia.

Scion’s Acetylation Technology has been developed by scientists Kourosh Nasheri and Gavin Durbin.

Wood acetylation is a process which increases the amount of ‘acetyl’ molecules in wood, thereby modifying its physical properties.

The process protects wood from rot by making it inedible to most micro-organisms and insects without making it toxic, unlike conventional treatments.

Acetylation also greatly improves the wood’s dimensional stability, reducing its tendency to swell and shrink and making it less prone to cracking.

Accoya™ wood is more resistant to UV degradation, meaning that it retains its natural appearance longer and, when painted, requires less frequent maintenance.

Scion chief executive, Dr Tom Richardson, says the sale is the natural next step in the technology development process.

“The Acetylation Technology has been under development at Scion for some time and has been proven on a small pilot plant scale. In order for the technology to really move forward, it needs to be taken to a large scale plant which is capable of processing commercial quantities of timber and acetic anhydride,” says Dr Richardson.

“We don’t have that capability so we are delighted that Titan Wood will progress the technology, and use our science skills to enhance this process. Titan Wood leads the world in bringing acetylated wood to market. It is well ahead of the competition in developing this kind of technology and is building the world’s first full scale acetylation plant.

“In addition, Titan Wood is specifically applying its technology to sustainably grown radiata pine, so uptake of this technology could open a new market for New Zealand pine in Europe and other countries, enabling its use in challenging external applications which have hitherto been the preserve of tropical hardwoods and artificial alternatives. This can only be good for New Zealand’s radiata pine industry.”

Dr Richardson says the potential value of the technology to industry is that it offers the opportunity to shorten process cycle times and increase throughput of wood undergoing the treatment, while potentially reducing costs.

“The technology appeals to industry because of the overall cost improvements it offers, as well as the fact that acetylated wood is an excellent substitute for CCA-treated wood, increasingly scarce and expensive tropical hardwoods and artificial alternatives.”

Edward Pratt, CEO of Accsys Technologies, added: “Titan Wood’s technology is the result of over 15 years of continuous process development. The company has operated the only large-scale pilot plant of its kind since 2003 and is very close to completing a full scale plant for commercial production and technology demonstration purposes.”

“Since 2004, we have radically developed our technology and the possibility of the incremental improvements offered by Scion’s technology is especially exciting. This acquisition will enable us to further strengthen our market position and develop and enhance our offering to our technology licensees around the world. It also demonstrates our absolute commitment to the business and leadership in this field.”