Sappi starts work on developing furfural pilot plant

17th February 2021 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Creamer Media Online Writer

JSE-listed paper and packaging manufacturer Sappi says it has made progress in the development of its biorefinery capacity.

The company confirmed in a release on February 17 that it will build a pilot plant using technology developed in-house to prove the feasibility of a future commercial furfural plant.

The plant will be located at Sappi’s Saiccor Mill, in KwaZulu-Natal, and use the co-product of the dissolving pulp process – hemicellulose sugars.

Sappi says the pilot plant should be operational early in 2022 and, pending successful results and further approvals, Sappi may build a commercial furfural plant at the mill.

“We are happy with the progress being made by our biorefinery team. Biomaterials and biochemicals are integral to Sappi’s strategy of extracting maximum value from wood fibre as a natural resource.

“We have taken a significant step towards generating meaningful revenue from this new business segment,” states CEO Steve Binnie.

Sappi Biotech executive VP Louis Kruyshaar adds that furfural is a sustainably sourced biochemical with a variety of established and future market uses, including resins, solvents and platform chemicals to replace oil-based chemicals.

Additionally, the cost advantages offered by Sappi’s scale mean that Sappi will have a globally competitive cost base for furfural production, what with the commercial plant potentially being co-located at the mill.

The company will also be able to leverage its competencies in logistics and customer service to support global customers, thereby earning additional foreign exchange and supporting the country’s balance of trade.