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Hemicellulose next for Fortress Paper


November 30, 2016
By Maria Church Canadian Biomass

Fortress Paper is installing a new system at its Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill in Thurso, Que., designed to extract hemicellulose from the dissolving pulp process.

In addition to its previously announced project to use birch as a feedstock for dissolving pulp, Fortress plans to extract hemicellulose from species such as birch. Hemicellulose is a cellulosic sugar, which when extracted and processed, has high value-added by-product potential such as biofuel and biomaterial feedstock.

The federal government is providing $9 million through Natural Resources Canada’s Investments in Forest Industry Transformation program in support of the project, and the Quebec government is funding $3.5 million through the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.

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“Extracting hemicellulose is the first step to entering the emerging renewable raw materials space which is an appealing new market opportunity with significant upside potential,” Yvon Pelletier, president and CEO of Fortress Paper, said in a press release. “The two planned projects at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill demonstrate our continued commitment to developing new revenue streams that increase long-term shareholder value.”

The company plans to install a new accumulator at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill which will allow for the collection of hydrolysate. By separating the hydrolysate from the liquor stream it can be further processed to produce a number of bio-products, including xylose and furfural. Currently, the hydrolysate is neutralized and mixed with weak black liquor, sent to the evaporators and then fired in the recovery boilers. If the hydrolysate is removed from the liquor cycle and processed separately it will offload the evaporators and recovery boilers. It is expected that by offloading the evaporators and recovery boilers the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill will able to utilize more of its incremental digester capacity.

“Capitalizing on the technological advances made possible by green chemistry, Fortress Speciality Cellulose will offer opportunities for crush-quality hardwood, particularly yellow and white birch – species that are currently overlooked by the industry but are very present in the Outaouais region. In addition to having a positive impact on regional forestry operations and facilitating access to timber, this project will help grow the entire regional forestry sector,” Quebec Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Luc Blanchette, said in the release.

The birch usage project and hemicellulose project are expected to cost approximately $23.4 million in aggregate, $3.65 million of which will go towards the hemicellulose project. Fortress says it expects to finance the remainder of the hemicellulose project’s total cost with cash on hand.