Development of global CLT production © Timber-Online


100,000 m³ cross-laminated timber factories as default?

Article by Günther Jauk, translated by Susanne Höfler | 05.11.2019 - 15:33

Growth rates of the global cross-laminated timber industry continue to exceed the 10% mark. With a plus of 15%, production in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Italy and Czech Republic together increased to more than 810,000 m³. This year, the output will gain another 12% totaling over 920,000 m³. This growth is primarily due to production increases of large-scale producers with existing plants that have been optimized for this very purpose in the past few years.

Hardly any contribution to these growth rates, however, comes from newly launched production sites such as those of the Derix group in Westerkappeln/DE, the Pfeifer Group in Schlitz/DE and Schillinger Holz in Küssnacht/CH. Each of these factories has a production capacity of roughly 100,000 m3/yr. Furthermore, Binderholz launched a second production line in Burgbernheim which boosted the company's annual output to over 320,000 m³ - more than any other company worldwide. Another newcomer to the sector is Ante-Holz. The German timber company took a 15,000 m³/yr plant into operation this year in Bromskirchen-Somplar; furthermore, it is planning to start a 50,000 m³/yr plant in Rottleberode in 2020. With these additional capacities as well as the continuously growing global demand, it will be easy to exceed the 1 million m³ mark in this region next year.

Global growth

Worldwide CLT output of 2019 from 60 registered production lines will amount to roughly 1.44 million m³, according to surveys by an Oregon State University team headed by Univ.-Prof. Lech Muszynski, Ph.D. (in part based on Timber-Online data). With this, around 65% of the globally produced CLT comes from Italy, Czech Republic and the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). If on top of that known production sites are included for which no current output data are available, Muszynski estimates the global production output to amount to 1.6 to 1.8 million m3/yr. Given the big number of additionally planned production lines, the researcher expects a global annual output between 2 and 2.5 million m³ by the end of 2020.

Concentration in Carinthia

Carinthia will gain not one but two new cross-laminated timber productions that will be launched in 2020. The Johann Offner corporate group is opening a new KLH site in Bad St. Leonhard. In the final expansion stage, a total of 150,000 m³ per year will be output - together with the site in Teufenbach-Katsch, this would take the company to a total of 280,000 m³/yr. Besides that, Bad St. Leonhard is growing to become the world's second-largest CLT municipality. Stora Enso is operating an 80,000 m³/yr factory only 5 km away.

The second large-scale project in Carinthia is emerging in Steinfeld near the Hasslacher headquarters Sachsenburg. With a plant concept that is also designed for 100,000 m3/yr, Theurl's first CLT factory will go into operation in the late spring of 2020. Stora Enso is currently running a feasibility study for a fourth CLT factory at the company's Czech site Ždírec. Together with the productions in Ybbs/AT, Bad St. Leonhard/AT and Gruvön/SE, this would make the Finnish group's annual production volume grow to 390,000 m³/yr - i.e. 70,000 m³/yr more than Binderholz. The corresponding feasibility study is supposed to be completed by the end of 2019.

Looking north

Considerably higher growth rates than those in Central Europe are expected for Scandinavia in the future. Norway, for instance, is not only home to world's tallest timber building, Mjøstårnet, but since 2018 also to Scandinavia's first big CLT factory. The Splitkon facilities in Åmot have a theoretical plant capacity of 100,000 m3/yr; currently, only half of the capacity is being utilized, though. Between 2004 and 2018, the country's cross-laminated timber demand grew from 5000 m3/yr to 70,000 m3/yr and is expected to show even more significant increases in the future.

While one year ago, Sweden's production capacity was still below 25,000 m³, soon it will amount to more than 400,000 m3. Next to Martinsons' factory which has been around for a while already, this is due to Stora Enso, Södra and Setra. Some months ago, Stora Enso launched a 120,000 m3 production line in Gruvön, and Setra announced its market entry with a factory of 100,000 m3/yr in Långshyttan for the first half of 2020. The necessary system components in part will come from the failed British CLT project Legal & General.  

The third newcomer in Sweden is Södra. The forestry, wood and pulp producing group launched a pilot plant with 15,000 m3/yr in Väröbacka a few months ago. By the beginning of 2022, the company wants to take a 100,000 m3 factory into operation. What is more, Södra already has plans for another large-scale production in the east of the country. All of Södra's CLT projects are built in direct vicinity of already existing sawmills of the company.

Projects in the east

Industry experts also see great potential in France, Eastern Europe and Russia. Only a couple of weeks from now, the Ukrainian Sawmill Holding Company is launching a 50,000 m3 plant in Korosten/UA. Apart from that, in Russia the country's first two CLT factories are in the making.  The Segezha group started building a production hall in Sokol in the region of Wologda at the end of June. Ladozhsky is currently installing a production line near St. Petersburg. Both projects are scheduled to take up operation in 2020.

Growth in North America

The CLT industry in North America is growing slowly, but steadily. Besides confirmed projects like the one by Kalesnikoff Lumber in British Columbia/BC, Element5 in Ontario or Smartlam's capacity expansion, American and European machine suppliers reported "several promising projects in different stages of planning". At the end of 2018, International Beams in Alabama launched the first CLT line with Southern Yellow Pine. In the summer, Katerra took a large-scale plant in Spokane, Washington, into operation. Furthermore, Vaagen Timbers launched a CLT-glulam combination line in the state of Washington.

Unlike in Europe, in North America only a few CLT producers have their own sawmill what, considering the massive lumber price fluctuations, could turn out to be another challenge. Several machine suppliers have still not noticed significant interest in CLT while others have already received actual inquiries from this area.

More variety - shorter delivery times?

According to Prof. Muszynski's team, 75% of all installed CLT presses worldwide were supplied by only three different European manufacturers. With regard to CNC processing centers, the three biggest suppliers - again, all three of them European - even make for 80% of the total. These oligopoly markets, however, are expected to become more diversified over the upcoming years since the wood-processing industries are not the only sector where cross-laminated timber has top priority. Numerous machine suppliers on both sides of the Atlantic are working on proprietary solutions in this field - a development that will not only cause shorter delivery times but also accelerate technological progress.