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The goal is to build knowledge and business opportunities around the production of "second generation" biofuels and biochemicals from sugars, from raw materials that do not compete with food production. This three-year project started in June 2013 and it is the result of a pilot project in 2012 financed by Vinnova (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) and businesses in the forestry and chemical industries.

Jacarei mill from the top of the boiler
Jacarei mill, Brazil, from the top of the boiler

One potential product from sugar is ethanol, which today perhaps is most associated with transportation fuels but there are more applications. The large amount of ethanol produced from sugar cane in Brazil today has begun to find new markets as base chemical, and manufacturing of polyethylene from ethanol on a large scale is already a reality.

A Swedish-Brazilian consortium will now develop a new process concept developed at Innventia for co-production of lignin and second generation sugars from wood in the pulp mill. The feedstock is bagasse and forestry residues which have been pretreated with alkaline fractionation. The process is integrated with a kraft pulp mill when it comes to energy and chemical recovery, including lignin extraction. The ethanol may be partly used as raw material for polymers for barrier materials in liquid packaging which is also manufactured integrated in the pulp mill.

The benefits of integrating production of biochemicals in the pulp mill are, for example, there are already processes and equipment to handle streams of biomass in a cost efficient and environmentally friendly manner. From a business perspective, the new concept involves entirely new products in the pulp mill's portfolio, which is well suited to the global demand for renewable products.

The project is a Swedish-Brazilian consortium partly financed by the Swedish Energy Agency and led by Innventia's Niklas Berglin.