Where the story began
In 1825, Frédéric Kuhlmann, a leading French chemist, opened a sulfuric acid plant along the canal de la Deûle in Loos, near Lille.
The previous year in Lille, Frédéric Kuhlmann began teaching applied chemistry for industry and the arts. Originally from Alsace, he quickly noticed the difficulty faced by local manufacturers in procuring basic raw materials such as sulfuric acid. They would have to arrange delivery of these products from locations such as Paris, which was costly. Frédéric Kuhlmann wanted to change this and decided to bring in the technology that the region lacked. He joined forces with his brother Théodore Kuhlmann and rented land in Loos, building there a sulfuric acid plant with the lead chamber technology in 1825. The plant opened on May 15, 1826, and, two days later, sulfuric acid was produced there for the very first time. This is where the story of PCUK Loos-lez-Lille began.
PCUK Loos-lez-Lille joins the Tessenderlo family
PCUK Loos-lez-Lille joined Tessenderlo in October 1983 after being in operation for 158 years and struggling for over 20 years. The Loos plant was specialized in inorganic chemical products, a production focus that was shared by Tessenderlo Chemie. PCUK Loos-lez-Lille was a good addition to the plant at Tessenderlo and it eased pressure on production at the Limburg site.
Tessenderlo applied a proven formula and turned the Loos plant around with an investment of 300 million French francs over 15 years. It streamlined and modernized the plant, implementing the recovery of by-products and reducing production costs. Tessenderlo also updated the branding of its new subsidiary, renamed Loos-Usine Frédéric Kuhlmann (after its founder).
Production at the facility centered on two units: the chlorine division (focusing in particular on chlorine) and the mineral division (focusing on sodium sulfate). Alongside the manufacture of basic products such as sodium sulfate and bleach, the Loos plant became the only one in France to produce mineral chlorides and the first in France to produce ferric chloride (used in water treatment).
A barge between Loos and Paris
Tessenderlo Group launched a new, more eco-friendly means of transport in 2016 in the form of a barge named Margot La Fileuse, the aim being to facilitate the transportation of ferric chloride between Loos and the city of Paris. The new ship has since been used to provide municipalities and industry with coagulants and other chemicals for the treatment of both wastewater and drinking water.
We had traditionally made our deliveries to the French capital by truck, but all that would change when we started using the new barge. In this way, it could respond to the needs and desires of our customers while making a part of the logistics chain more sustainable. The barge effectively took some 2,500 truck deliveries per year off the roads of northern France!
A brand-new electrolysis unit for Loos
The new membrane electrolysis unit at Produits Chimiques de Loos (currently Kuhlmann France) came into operation in spring 2018 with its cutting-edge technology safeguarding the future of the site. In September 2018, Tessenderlo Group held a ceremony to mark the inauguration of its new membrane electrolysis production facility. Various events were organized with employees, customers and other stakeholders to celebrate the inauguration.
This marked a new milestone in the history of Tessenderlo Group and Kuhlmann Europe, as the new plant provides state-of-the-art technology to produce chlorine, sodium hydroxide (NaOH), and potassium hydroxide (KOH).
The plant in Loos is the largest production plant for water treatment coagulants in Europe. The new membrane electrolysis production facility confirms the commitment of Tessenderlo Group to the long-term continuity of supply to its customers. It also allows the group to serve both external market demand as well as internal consumption of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide.
Our second barge comes into operation
Blandina is the name of our new HCl barge between Loos and Ham. It transports HCl to Loos, ensuring 4,500 less truck deliveries each year. The site was previously supplied with hydrochloric acid by trucks from Ham. Thanks to this waterway transport approach, approximately 1.6 million km of road travel will be avoided each year.
Back to our roots and future-oriented
In 2021, following our strategy, we were led to reconsider our positioning, our name and our visual identity. We decided to look not only to our future, but also to our roots and to the founder of the Loos site who got us to where we are today: Frederic Kuhlmann. In his honor and with the desire to create a strong identity, which reflects our rich past and is recognized in Europe, we have chosen to rename our "Performance Chemicals" business unit "Kuhlmann Europe", as well as the various sites that constitute it. Produits Chimiques de Loos has thus become Kuhlmann France, Tessenderlo has become Kuhlmann Belgium and Rekingen has become Kuhlmann Switzerland.