Domtar Corp. has successfully started-up a commercial-scale lignin separation plant at its Plymouth, North Carolina mill. The production of BioChoice™ lignin began in February, with a targeted rate of 75 tons a day, destined for a wide range of industrial applications as a bio-based alternative to the use of petroleum and other fossil fuels.
The successful installation of commercial-scale lignin removal capacity at the Plymouth Mill is the culmination of a research and engineering project launched by Domtar in 2010. This project was further boosted when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the company a grant through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative.
The lignin-separation technology installed at Plymouth is the LignoBoost system supplied by Metso.
“Our vision is to be a global leader in fiber-based innovation," said Bruno Marcoccia, Domtar's director of research and development. “A big part of this is our focus on partnering with best-in class collaborators to develop new products and markets for a wide portfolio of initiatives, like BioChoice."
“The possibilities for making a real difference in terms of offering manufacturers a bio-based alternative to the use of petro-chemicals is truly exciting," said Hasan Jameel, a professor in North Carolina State University's Department of Forest Biomaterials. “This is a big win for sustainability on two counts: Domtar improves the efficiency of its pulp-making process, and at the same time the market gets a reliable, high-quality source of this underused material with so much potential."
A wide range of potential applications for BioChoice lignin exists, including fuels, resins and thermoplastics. Domtar believes this facility is the first commercial source of lignin to enter the market in about 25 years.
Speaking at a lignin conference last June, Marcoccia explained that the Plymouth mill was uniquely suited for the lignin project because it has been recovery-boiler limited for several years. He expected the LignoBoost process would cost effectively remove lignin from the black liquor stream, and reduce loading on the recovery boiler. That, in turn, could permit higher pulp production.
Domtar Corporation manufactures and markets a wide variety of fiber-based products including pulp, papers and adult incontinence products.