Canadian industry works to diversify the use of wood fibre

Alyssa Dalton
March 27, 2018
By
Mar. 27, 2018 - Fortress Global Enterprises Inc. is just one Canadian forestry firm that is forging ahead in the biomass sector. The company recently acquired S2G Biochemicals, a British Columbia-based company that produces xylitol, a food industry sweetener best known as the artificial sweetener in chewing gum.

Fortress Global plans to test the technology with a demonstration-scale plant at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose (FSC) Mill in Thurso, Que., using C5 sugars extracted from hemicellulose, a residue from the facility, to make xylitol. Scheduled to begin operations in 2020, the site is expected to have a production capacity of up to 2,000 tonnes per year of xylitol. If successful, Fortress Global says it will build a $150-million full-scale plant capable of manufacturing 20,000 tones per year.

Undergoing its own transition, the forestry company recently changed its name from Fortress Paper Ltd. in a move to better reflect its existing business and future strategies, it says.

“We believe that the production of xylitol will further optimize the utilization of our wood fibre and also provide us with the added benefit of offloading the recovery boiler which will provide a separate measurable economic benefit,” Chadwick Wasilenkoff, Fortress Global CEO, said.

Earlier this year, Resolute Forest Products and FPInnovations announced additional investments in a pilot project to produce and commercialize biochemicals derived from wood. Hosted at Resolute’s Thunder Bay, Ont., pulp and paper mill, the $21-million project will establish a biorefinery for TMP-Bio, a patented technology developed by FPInnovations to produce biochemicals, including cellulosic sugars and high-quality H-lignin, from wood chips.

Derek Nighbor, CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada, describes the news as an “economic opportunity.”

“Our ability to continue to transform Canada’s forest products sector by making new products that displace fossil fuel-intensive ones is not only going to help us fight climate change, but is also key to the future success of our mill communities,” he said.

“With the burgeoning global bioeconomy, bioproducts such as 2G sugars and H-lignin are rapidly growing in importance as the market seeks non-fossil and non-food alternatives,” writes Zhirun Yuan, FPInnovations research leader, in an article published in 2016-2017 IMPACT magazine. “Canada’s forests are an abundant source of biomass — biomass that presents many opportunities for applications of bioproducts, biochemicals and biomaterials. The substantial growth potential and projected market size of these bioproducts make it a very exciting time for the Canadian forest sector and for the key players involved.”

As the forest products sector continues in its age of transformation, now is the time for the Canadian industry to embrace transformative and competitive technologies.

This editorial was originally published in the Spring 2018 of Pulp & Paper Canada.

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