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Home » Aviation Fuel, BioChemicals/Renewable Chemicals, BioRefineries, Biorefinery Infrastructure, Business News/Analysis, Co-Products, Feedstocks, Forestry/Wood, Funding/Financing/Investing, Infrastructure, Maine, Not Agriculture, Process, R & D Focus, Sugars, Sustainability

Bounding Maine: Top 10 Companies Targeting Maine’s Forest Resource for Higher-Value Apps

Submitted by on September 12, 2017 – 6:56 pmNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  …  But pulp and paper markets have taken big hits. Headlines have centered around damaged balance sheets that make it difficult to modernize or expand, mothballed plants, bankruptcies, job losses that have struck hard at northern Maine’s forest-based economy.

An indeed, a renaissance has been in the making, focused on apps that unlock wood sugars for higher-value materials and chemicals — displacing petroleum. Trade groups, individual companies making strategic investments, venture groups, and state resources have been at work preparing the way for a new generation of companies.

For one, think conversion of wood into cellulosic sugar intermediates, and into higher-value chemicals.

Sappi’s strategic moves

Sappi is a case in point. The company is proactively seeking biotechnology for its Westbrook Paper Mill. The strategic intent is to identify and deploy economically feasible technology in support of Sappi’s Biotech Business across the Group, which includes Maine. In April, Sappi issued an RFP with the help of Biobased Maine to seek proposals for biobased technologies that could be co-located with its Westbrook paper mill.

They’re serious, Sappi announced that it will bolster its biorefining expertise through the acquisition of the Xylex and Versalac technologies owned by Plaxica Limited. The transaction will result in Sappi acquiring the sugar clean up technologies which includes the patents, knowhow, equipment and key technical staff of Plaxica. The size of the transaction does not require regulatory disclosure.

The technology acquisition follows Sappi’s successful commissioning of a demonstration extraction unit at its Ngodwana Mill in South Africa during April 2017 to extract a sugar rich prehydrolysate stream from the PHK pulping process. The next step towards the production of clean sugars involves the clean-up of the PHK liquor or hydrolysate to separate the xylose-rich sugars from the lignin.

Forest Bioproducts Research Institute

It’s not a company, but FBRI has been on the move. Last September, we reported that the Defense Logistics Agency will invest $3.3 million to advance wood to jet fuel technology at the Technology Research Center of the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute at the University of Maine. The technology is based on FBRI’s patented thermal deoxygenation process, which was shown to yield jet fuel test samples that have met key specification. In order to improve process economics, FBRI will investigate co-production of advanced materials, such as nanocelluose composites, as well as some high-value chemicals from woody biomass and liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

This project will explore conversion of cellulose and lignin to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, and use of hemicellose extract and cellulose fiber slip streams for developing high-value co-products.

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