SAPPI has announced further progress in the development of its biorefinery capacity with the confirmation that it will construct 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 on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast and will use the co-product of the dissolving pulp process. It should be operational early in 2022. Pending successful paper and pulp results and further approvals it the pulp and paper multi-national plans to build a “world-scale” commercial furfural plant at the mill.
Sappi CEO Steve Binnie said, “We are very 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, our natural and renewable resource. We have taken a significant step towards generating meaningful revenue from this new business segment”.
Louis Kruyshaar, EVP for Sappi Biotech said furfural is a sustainably sourced bio-chemical with a variety of established and future market uses, including resins, solvents and platform chemicals to replace oil-based chemicals.
He said the location of the commercial plant at an existing mill site would deliver strong integration synergies, and the cost advantages offered by Sappi’s scale mean the company will have a globally competitive cost base for furfural production.
“In addition, Sappi will be able to use its existing competencies in logistics and customer service to support global customers from South Africa, earning additional foreign exchange and supporting the country’s balance of trade.”
Turning to the markets which the pilot plant will enable Sappi to explore, Kruyshaar said, “The future commercial furfural plant will be one of the largest, lowest cost and sustainable production facilities in the world. It will be unique in using wood-based feedstock from the dissolving pulp process, ensuring all year-round feedstock availability and production”.