Pulp and paper producer Sappi has decided to build a demonstration plant to further scale up its novel Xylex technology for the production of xylitol and furfural.
The plant, which will become operational in early 2019, will be located adjacent to the existing sugars and lignin extraction plant at the Ngodwana mill, in Mpumalanga.
“We are very happy with the progress being made by our biorefinery team, as well as with the value we are deriving from the acquisition and integration last year of the key biorefinery technologies and expert staff from Plaxica.
“Biomaterials and biochemicals are integral to Sappi’s strategy of extracting maximum value from wood fibre, our natural and renewable resource. We have taken a significant step towards generating meaningful revenue from this new business segment,” Sappi CEO Steve Binnie commented on Wednesday.
Pending successful results and further approvals, Sappi may build commercial xylitol and furfural plants adjacent to its others mills in the US and South Africa.
Sappi believes the combination of its operational excellence; the proposed co-location of the commercial plants at existing mill sites, which delivers strong integration synergies; and the cost advantages offered by Sappi’s scale and the Xylex technology, will give Sappi a globally competitive cost base for sugars and xylitol and furfural production.
“Xylitol is a high-value sweetener with exciting growth prospects – it is a low-calorie sweetener which has positive dental properties and produces no insulin response, so is suitable for diabetics. Furfural is a versatile green industrial chemical derived from C5 sugars with a diverse range of derivatives,” explained Sappi Biotech executive VP Louis Kruyshaar.